Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ: First Advent Sunday 2018: Hope

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ:

‘First Advent Sunday 2018: Hope’

© December 2, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 2, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on November 22, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 22, 2015

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #412: Just When I Need Him Jesus Is Near; Choruses                     

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

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

Lighting of First Advent Candle (Hope)                                                                    

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where on this glorious Sunday morning, we mark the beginning of Advent. We signify Advent’s arrival by lighting the first of four Advent candles. For our lesson today, entitled: Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love in Christ – First Advent Sunday: Hope’, we begin by understanding the significance of the events described in the Bible, which combine to cover the arrival of people, things, and events that comprise what we refer today as Advent.

First, let us look at some definition of terms regarding Advent. For this we shall check our Wikibits:

ad·vent ˈadˌvent/noun

noun: advent; plural noun: advents

  1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

E.g. “the advent of television”

synonyms: arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development; More

approach, coming

“the advent of a new school year”

antonyms: disappearance
  • the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.

noun: Advent

  • Christian Theology; the coming or second coming of Christ.

noun: Advent

https://www.google.ca/search?q=advent+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gws_rd=cr&ei=_gRbVobdA8O9eZb4tNgF

The Advent season marks the beginning of the Christian year in western Christianity. Its length varies from 22 to 28 days, beginning on the Sunday nearest St Andrew’s Day and encompassing the next three Sundays, ending on Christmas Day. St Andrew was born in Bethesda on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and was the younger brother of St Peter. Both he and his brother became disciples of Jesus. He is said to have died bound to an “X” shaped cross at Patras in Achea in Greece. This shape is now reflected in the Scottish flag, known as the Saltire. St Andrew has been recognized as the patron saint of Scotland since at least the ninth century. St Andrew’s Day falls on November 30, according to many Christian churches. St Andrew’s Day is a bank holiday in Scotland. However, the bank holiday falls on Monday, December 1 or 2 if November 30 is a Saturday or Sunday.

The church year begins in September 1 in many eastern Christian churches, so Advent starts at a different time to when it starts in the western churches. The eastern equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, which runs for 40 days.

Background

It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was first introduced in the Christian church. Some sources say that Advent began on November 11 (St Martin’s Day) at some time in the fifth century in the form of a six-week fast leading to Christmas. Advent was reduced to its current length at some stage in the sixth century and the fasting was later no longer observed. Advent is originally a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter. Advent has sometimes been referred to as the Winter Lent.  In recent times the restrictions that Advent brings to Christians have become more relaxed.

Symbols

Purple is historically the main color used for Advent because it reflects penitence, fasting, and the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the king (Jesus Christ). The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his first Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Some churches use other colors in recent times. For example, some churches mark the third Sunday of Advent with pink or rose, colors that represent joy. Many Protestant churches use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent.

Advent wreaths are symbolic of Advent in some countries. They are usually made of fir and decorated with gold and silver ribbons or scarlet woolen threads. Lit wreaths may be displayed on the table where family and friends sit while singing carols and preparing handmade gifts.

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/canada/first-day-advent

We have in our first Scripture Verse, Isaiah 11:1-10 (ESV), the prophecy of the Advent of the arrival of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse”, a descendant of Jesse, the father of King David:

         The Righteous Reign of the Branch

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

Our second Scripture Verse, Jeremiah 33:14-16 (ESV), where the Lord describes the prophecy in terms of the Advent of a fulfillment of His Eternal Covenant:

The Lord’s Eternal Covenant with David

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

And in our third Scripture, Romans 15:12 (ESV), the Apostle Paul, indicates the significance for believers today, and for all generations, of the Advent of Christ:

 12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

We find that in Advent, not just the anticipation of the birth of Christ, and the “Good News” that our Lord brought to humanity: salvation by way of the cross, sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and the hope in the promise of eternal life.

Advent describes the events of the arrival of travelers: a nation of Chosen People, to a Chosen Land, to receive a Chosen or Anointed Saviour. In their travels, the people travel in and out of bondage, to Egypt, the wilderness, and to land that was promised.

We also see the arrival of the Magi or Wise Men, who reveal that Christ’s arrival was also significant to the Gentiles, as well as to the people of Israel.

We see the arrival of shepherds, who come to see the arrival of Jesus, to signify that Christ arrived for the benefit of both, the high and meek, alike.

We see the advent of angels, who are sent to inform Mary and Joseph of the arrival of a child, who is both son of man and Son of God. Angels had arrived to announce to the shepherds the arrival of the Christ child. We observe the advent of angels who warned both the Magi and Joseph and Mary of King Herod’s plot to kill the child, Jesus. And by lighting a candle today, we mark the advent of a star over a manger in Bethlehem, to signify the arrival of the “Light of the World,” that is the advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the living Christ.

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #100: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

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. 

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Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

© July 1, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 1, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 7, 2015

BLCF Bulletin June 7, 2015

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                    

O Canada! (See: below)                                                                                                         

Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                     

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

Responsive Reading #634: Christian Unity (John 10 and 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                          

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/anthems-canada.html#a11

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship and Happy Canada Day 2018! As today happens to be the first Sunday of the month, it is a Communion Sunday.

For our lesson today, entitled Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith,  we will be looking at Prayer and the Holy Spirit, as the two dynamic elements of Faith in Jesus, whose sacrifice we remember in the communion portion of today’s service. Just as in communion, we are drawn together as a body of believers, in our prayers we are drawn closer to God’s Holy Spirit.

We know that the elements of communion are the bread and juice, but what are the elements of a prayer? Jesus gave us an idea in his response to the disciples’ question: “How should we pray?” in what we commonly refer to today as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

The Scriptures give us two accounts of Jesus’ example as of how to pray in Matthew, Chapter 6 and Luke, Chapter 11. For our lesson, I have chosen the example recorded in Matthew 6:5-13. While most references indicate the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew beginning at Verse 9 and ending with Verse 13, I find that the four verses previous to Verse 9 are just as important, as they explain not just the content of our prayers, but the attitude and manner of expression of the prayers.

Matthew 6:5-13 (ESV) The Lord’s Prayer

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 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 e. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

There is the common practice among many Churches of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at every service. Such practice runs the risk of just heaping many words publically as described in Matthew 6:7-8. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, it was before the Day of Pentecost and so we could understand why the disciples did not discern or understand how to construct a prayer. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s presence brings a dynamism to our prayers and the Spirit with prayer act as a ‘Dynamic Duo’ to our faith requests. I am not talking about a Super Hero, but the Spirit delivers dynamism to the prayer. But what do we mean by the term dynamism? Let us check our Wikibits for an answer:

Dynamism [dahy-nuh-miz-uh m] /ˈdaɪ nəˌmɪz əm/ noun 1. Any of various theories or philosophical systems that seek to explain phenomena of nature by the action of force.

Compare mechanism (def 8), vitalism (def 1).

  1. Great energy, force, or power; vigor:

The dynamism of the new governor.

  1. Psychology. A habitual mode of reducing or eliminating tension.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dynamism

This synergy of Spirit and faith together make our prayers more than just hollow words. Faith in the Lord brings the Spirit and the Spirit mediates our prayers and His reply.

Just prior to his crucifixion for all our sins, the Lord gave his “High Priestly Prayer.

John 17 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer

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, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “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. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 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. 9 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. 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.”

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) d. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God) In verses 17-26 of John 17,

Jesus asks the Father that those who believe and follow him be sanctified, unified and that the love of God that is in Christ will be in them. The manner by which this request by the Lord may be achieved is by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ Prayer in John 17 describes how the Lord delivered on his promise to ask the Father to provide another Helper, described as “the Spirit of truth” earlier in John 14:12-17.

John 14:12-17 (ESV)

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[a] anything in my name, I will do it.

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,[b] 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[c] in you.

Footnotes: A. John 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me B. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 C. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

How does the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is part of the Holy Trinity of God, change the manner in which we pray. Here is an excerpt from Ray C. Stedman’s article on The Holy Spirit and Prayer, from a Series: Jesus Teaches Prayer:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Author: Ray C. Stedman – Read the Scripture: John 14:12-17

It is significant to note that, though Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, he did teach them how to pray. Much of his teaching on prayer is found in this rich and fragrant passage, which is called The Upper Room Discourse, found in John, Chapters 13 through 17. It is a passage that is filled with astonishing concepts.

I know of no more challenging part of the Word of God than this. It is a vast area of mystery and beauty and glory. I never read it without feeling tremendously humbled in the experience of it. Perhaps in this place, more fully than anywhere else, our Lord unfolds to us the unique secret of Christianity, that aspect of life that has been called “the exchanged life.”

This is the secret of a Christian: He is not living his own life, he is living another’s life. Or, more accurately, another is living his life in him. Until you have grasped that as the mystery and key of Christian living you have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life.

This is what Jesus says: “In you” means that you are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and yielding obedience to his totalitarian sovereignty. It means the total collapse of all your rebellion against him.

“Oh,” you say, “I’m not in rebellion against the Spirit of God. Why, I’m a Christian. I don’t rebel against him.” Let me ask you: “What kind of life are you living? Is it God-centered, or is it self-centered? Is it to please yourself that your activities are done and your desires aimed?” Then you are in rebellion against the Spirit of God, and to have him dwelling in you means the total collapse of all that revolt until you are saying, “Lord Jesus, whatever you say, your word is my command. I am ready to obey.”

It is not our relationship with Jesus Christ which counts before the world, it is our resemblance to him.

http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/prayer/the-holy-spirit-and-prayer

Unlike the disciples in Matthew 6 or Luke 11, we need not worry how to word our prayers, as we are accompanied by the Holy Spirit to help us express our concerns and to intercede on our behalf, as we see in Romans 8:26-27:

Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Footnotes: a. Romans 8:27 Or that

In spite of understanding that the Holy Spirit facilitates prayer, many Christians struggle with how to receive the Holy Spirit. For we receive the Spirit by faith. Author Bill Bright describes three steps in the Scriptures to our being filled with the Holy Spirit in his article:

 The Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit By Faith,

You can trust God right now to fill you

by Bill Bright

Millions of Christians are begging God, as I once did, for something which is readily available — just waiting to be appropriated by faith. They are seeking some kind of emotional experience, not realizing that such an attitude on their part is an insult to God — a denial of faith. But faith is the only way you can please God. Though you are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith and faith alone, it is important to recognize that several factors contribute to preparing your heart for the filling of the Spirit.

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord. You have the promise of our Savior, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul admonishes in Romans 12:1, 2: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Third, confess every known sin which the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness which God promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I call this process “Spiritual Breathing.”

Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you also breathe spiritually. You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins.

http://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/classics/transferable-concepts/be-filled-with-the-holy-spirit.7.html

The Holy Spirit provides for a dynamic dialog between God and the believers. Without the Spirit, prayer consists of hollow words with little hope of being heard by the Lord, let alone any reply. It is the Spirit acting as an Intermediary between the Lord and the believer that brings a Devine understanding to our deepest concerns far better than we can put them into words. As an Intercessor, the Spirit brings Devine comfort, encouragement and eventually understanding to the issues that we rise. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be assured that anything, for which we pray, according to the Lord’s will, will be heard and answered, 1 John 5:14 (ESV):

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Let us pray…

Hymn #213: Let Us Break Bread Together

The institution or practice of observing Communion was first instituted at the Last Supper, which was the Passover Supper attended by Jesus and his disciple just prior to his arrest and death on the cross, describes the Lord’s suffering and sacrifice. While we must remember the sadness of Christ’s suffering, we must remember the joy experienced when the disciples met Jesus resurrected from the grave, which occurred twice with the breaking of bread on the Road to Emmaus and inside the Upper Room. We should take comfort that the Lord loved us so much that he would not allow the believers in Christ to be judged by, but forgiven of their sins. This is the confidence we have in keeping our faith and trust in Him.

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

Benediction – (Psalm 19:14): Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Easter Sunday Message:

‘Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations’

© April 1, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 1, 2018 Easter Sunday

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                       

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

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

Responsive Reading #644: Christ and Immortality ( from 1 Corinthians 15)

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                   

 ‘Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations’

Let us pray…

He is Risen!” (Congregation responds: “He is Risen, Indeed!“) Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Easter Sunday Celebration Service. Moreover, as this year Easter falls on the first Sunday of April, we celebrate the Lord’s New Covenant with Communion.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Easter Sunday: Great Expectations, Greater Revelations,’ where we will examine the difference between the expectations of the disciples and the actual events that transpired on that Easter Day that Christ, Jesus rose from the dead. Let us start our lesson with the Scripture passage of Luke 24:1-12 (ESV):

 The Resurrection

24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Verse 10 of Luke 24, identifies several women, namely Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women arrived at the tomb of Jesus, expecting to embalm the body of their Lord. You may recall from our Good Friday lesson, in Matthew 27:62-66, that the chief priests and the Pharisees, in conjunction with Pilate had the large stone at the entrance of Jesus sealed and secured by guards. So it was not surprising that the women who travelled to the tomb speculated on whom they would ask to help move the stone, so that they could prepare the body of Jesus, Mark 16:1-4 (ESV):

The Resurrection

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.

There were several revelations that surprised the group. Not only was Pilate’s seal broken, the large tombstone had been rolled back, the body of Jesus was nowhere to be found, and two angels, who looked much like men in dazzling attire, waited inside. But the most surprising revelation came when the two told the women what had happened to the Lord, Luke 24:5-7 (ESV):

 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 

With the stone removed from the tomb of Jesus, Luke’s account does not mention where the guards assigned to guard the tomb were.

The women disciples had forgotten that Jesus had prophesied not only his crucifixion and his resurrection on the third day. The women remembered the Lord’s prediction, and rushed to bring the good news to the apostles, Luke 24:8-11 (ESV):

 And they remembered his words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 

You will note in Verse 10, Luke describes the followers as apostles or messengers of Jesus, no longer are they identified as disciples or students of the Lord. Sadly the apostles are skeptical to the news of the Joanna and the two Marys’ treated the account of the women as a contrived story. It seems that disbelief and lack of faith were unique to the apostle Thomas. At least Peter followed up upon the news of Jesus’ resurrection by running to the tomb to investigate the report,  Luke 24:12 (ESV):

12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Another account of the resurrection, from Mark’s Gospel, continues to contrast how greatly the disciples’ expectations differed from the reality of events, Mark 16:9-12 (ESV):

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

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.

Remember how Jesus would choose to minister first and foremost to the people considered to be the outcasts of the day, including criminals, adulterers, the disabled, tax collectors, lepers, and so on. It is not surprising that Jesus chose to reveal himself as the Resurrected Christ to those not generally respected in the day, first to the women, next to two minor disciples, and later to a man who was responsible for the arrest and murder of many Christians, Saul of Tarsus, known after his faith conversion as the Paul the apostle of Jesus. Again, Jesus sought to teach humility as he had when he washed the feet of his disciples.

You will note that the women first ventured out from the locked Upper Room, to face the guards of the tomb and at potential personal risks to their own safety, to take care of the body of Jesus. And we find two Jews, who were also followers of Jesus encounter Jesus while they walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, lamenting their Lord’s death, even after hearing that the women had encountered their resurrected Lord, earlier that very day an account told in Luke 24:13-35 (ESV):

On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

It seems that Jesus had encountered more doubt and skepticism from Cleopas and the other disciple about the women had witnessed at the tomb. Jesus had to reiterate the prophecies concerning himself, as the Christ and Messiah, that he is not a prophet of God, but the living Christ. It was only at the breaking of bread did the Lord reveal himself to the two disciples. Unfortunately, like the disciples cloistered in that Upper Chamber, they disbelieved the two disciples in the same way they had doubted the women.

It seemed the only way for Jesus to convince the disciples in the Upper Room of his resurrection, the Lord would have to reveal himself to the disciples in person,  Luke 24:36-49 (ESV):

 Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for[c] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 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.”

As happened on numerous occasions before his crucifixion, Jesus called out the disciples for the lack of faith, Luke 24:38-39 (ESV):

38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.” 

Jesus was expected, as God the Son, to ascend into heave to sit beside God the Father, as an advocate for the sinners, and in order to send God the Holy Spirit to admonish his believers in the truth of his Gospel, and the Spirit would help to convict those with little or no faith. We see the Lord’s ascension described in   Luke 24:50-53 (ESV):

The Ascension

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:13 Greek sixty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b.Luke 24:42 Some manuscripts add and some honeycomb c.Luke 24:47 Some manuscripts and

If the disciples had remembered Jesus’ had told them that he would be first crucified; only to be resurrected three days later, the women would not have gone to the grave to anoint a body that was not there. Further, the two disciples would not have embarked on a journey to Emmaus, but would have remained in Jerusalem. Finally, the remaining disciples would have unlocked the door to the Upper Room, anticipating with confidence, the return of Jesus, as their resurrected Christ.  The disciples no longer need to fear penalty of death, which is God’s judgement for humanity’s sins, as Christ, Jesus has paid the price for us all. This is summarized in our final Scripture verse, from Corinthians 15:20-26 (ESV):

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.

On his return, as the Resurrected Christ, Jesus revealed the good news that the judgment for sin that was unleashed upon Adam and Eve, and their descendants, expunged for all generations. The proof of the truth of the Gospel lay not in an empty, open tomb, but by Christ’s resurrection from death, his ascension to the Father in heaven, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit. He Is Risen Indeed!

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me 

 

Benediction – 2 Corinthians 13:14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Second Advent Sunday: Peace

BLCF: Advent-web-bannerhope,peace,love,joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Second Advent Sunday: Peace’

© December 6, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Bulletin December 6, 2015

BLCF: Isaiah 9_6

Call to: Responsive Reading #614: Peace and Renewal (Micah 4 and 7); Prayer

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus                                                     

 Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing                                                                        

Hymn #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!                                                                  

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

Today’s Scriptures: Micah 5:1-5, Haggai 2:1-9, Isaiah 9:6

 

Lighting Second Advent Candle (Peace) 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-23 (ESV):

BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free

13b  Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Or disorderly, or undisciplined

A few weeks ago, our Sunday lesson, included the Scripture’s account of the “Tower of Babel”, where a group of misguided people embarked on building a great tower towards heaven, so that they might raise themselves to the same level as the Lord, as well as to elevate their own personal status among other people throughout both the world and in history. The offense of embarking upon building an edifice to their own glory instead of to their Father in heave was so misguided and offensive to Him, that they were stricken by God with a multitude of languages, for their multitude of sins. The language barrier was so great, that the people discontinued their work on the tower and the communication differences caused the people to disperse and be scattered into obscurity.

In Secondary school, I had a Latin teacher, who often used a favorite line “non-sensibus” to comment upon a student’s error in translating a paragraph to English from Latin or Vice-Versa. We are told that Scripture is both Divinely inspired and Spiritually discerned.

Still, we find throughout the Bible numerous examples of individuals and groups performing foolish actions based upon a poor understanding of the meaning of prophecies, Commandments, parables, and/or Covenants. Examples of such actions include: consuming forbidden fruit, building tower to access heaven, as well as many other examples of actions based upon a twisted understanding of God’s Word.

We see in today’s first Scripture verse, Micah 5:1-5 (ESV), we see, that contrary to common belief at the time, Christ Child, the newborn Messiah, shall arise from the humble town of Bethlehem, to bring an end to armies, sieges, wars, and violence, which are all sins and grievously offend God. Jesus will bring God’s Peace, justice and harmony to all the factions in and around Israel In a manner that will establish the security of peace by way of the power of the Lord. Let us review that Scripture:

       The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

BLCF: Micah_5_1-5

[a] Now muster your troops, O daughter[b] of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 [c] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Footnotes: a. Micah 5:1 Ch 4:14 in Hebrew b. Micah 5:1 That is, city . Micah 5:2 Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

There are many groups today who appear to have the misguided idea that the Father in heaven is somehow subject to the whims of extreme groups and that He can be manipulated into bringing the Final Judgement if they initiate a mighty conflict. This did not happen in either of the great World wars and will not happen in any of the pseudo-religious conflicts around the globe today. It did not work, either, in the Crusades of the middle ages.

What we do know is that Christ came humbly to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, not a mighty steed on in a chariot of conflict. Before his birth in a humble stable, his mother traveled to a census upon the back of a donkey and that the King of Kings was born in the stable with a cattle’s hay crib as a bed. Before dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in order to show that battles will only be won when God’s Word is taught with love and humility.

We see God promises to fulfill His New Covenant again to another generation’s prophet in our second Scripture verse, Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV):

The Coming Glory of the Temple

BLCF: Glory and Peace - Haggai_2_1-9

In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

BLCF: Book-of-Haggai_2_1-9

 

For those of you who may have forgotten the New Covenant that the Lord promised, let us look at the third of today’s Scriptures, which pre-dates the other two, Isaiah 9:6 (ESV):

BLCF: Holy Trinity

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

This verse refers to the Godhead or Holy Trinity of our mighty God, Who as the Holy Spirit is a Wonderful Counselor; Who is the Maker, the Everlasting Father; and as Jesus our Savior, the Prince of Peace.

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (Mark 14)

BLCF: Communion_Sunday

This Sunday, being the first of the month, happens to be the occasion where we observe two Advents of the Lord:

The first is Jesus’ birth, where he came to fulfill prophecy by his birth, his death, his resurrection, his ascension to heaven, and by his sending of the Holy Spirit to those who believe and accept him as Lord and Saviour.

We observe the first Advent when we light candles, read scriptures, sing hymns, say prayers and praises to commemorate God’s gifts through His Son, Jesus.

We observe the second Advent or coming of the Lord, which has yet to take place, by observing Communion as a single Church or Body of Believers. Before we take the juice and bread elements of Communion, I would like to first read from Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV), which is found inside today’s bulletin, opposite the Order of Service:

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

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem                                                                

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7):        

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

BLCF: Come Lord Jesus Come

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