Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Abiding in the Way of the Lord’
©March 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Messages Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 and January 25, 2015
Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Handiwork I See
Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding
Prayers and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Handiwork I SeeResponsive Reading #597 (Gr of PrayerOD’s Attributes- Psalm 19)
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Abiding in the Way of the Lord’
Let us pray…
For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).
The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what we may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.
In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.
The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as upon a Holy Mountain.
Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved
The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested building, as temples; one each for Church of the Transfiguration. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.
On Mount Tabor, today, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Divine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them listen to him. .
Our second verse, offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees ask the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law, in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly. Both groups sought to serve themselves and their own authority over the authority of GOD. Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):
The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form, but appear as the angel in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.
Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:
26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
Having heard the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses which consisted of some 613 Commandments, as well as additional instructions and interpretations derived from the original Ten Commandments. All of these Laws and Commandments could be distilled down to two, which Jesus gave in response to the question of which was the Greatest Commandment, is found in Mark 12:28-33:
The Great Commandment
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother
We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.
Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be important to the descendants of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.
The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha), where Jesus was crucified, and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.
As Christians who see a relationship with God the Father, by trusting in the Gospel of Jesus, we at some time or other face the question: “Is undertaking a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites an important expression of our faith in GOD?” We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):
The Woman of Samaria
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s comment that her fathers worshipped GOD on a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place is not as important as how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth, that matters. It because the Christian’s identity is to not dependent upon any physical or geographic location, but upon a faith in God’s love, the sacrifice of His only Son Christ Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, our beliefs are not constrained to physical constraints or controls. This is why Napoleon concluded:
“I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.” – Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)
I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:
John 3:16 (ESV)
16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 13:34-35 (ESV)
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 15:12-14 (ESV)
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:17 (ESV)
17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
John 15:4-5 (ESV)
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 14:21 (ESV)
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.”
John 15:10 (ESV)
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Rather than embarking upon pilgrimages and building glorious cathedrals, our best and purist expression of Christian worship is truth and love, as defined by the Lord. In this manner, we have an opportunity to share with others a true glimpse of heaven.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes A Spark (Pass It On)
Benediction: (2 Corinthians 13:14):
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.