On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind January 24, 2016

BLCF: leaving_your_baggage_behind

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind’

© January 24, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church on Sunday, May 19, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 24, 2016

Unwanted Baggage

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Love – from John 3 and 1 John); Prayer                                                                                                 

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses                                        

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

 Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; John 3:1-14; Galatians 3:23-29

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Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind’ where we will not literally be talking about luggage that we travel around with, but the emotional and spiritual burdens that act to impede our Christian walk.

The biggest impediment to a non-Christian’s acceptance of the Gospel of Christ is the excess baggage, in the form of the cultural practices and values that the person carries. These natural or worldly values cloud the person’s vision of the spiritual world, which is perceived by faith and trust. This is what Paul meant when he wrote in his letter to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV):

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Ironically, this lack of spiritual trust or perception, at times, caused problems amongst the disciples in understanding the message of our Lord. You may recall John’s account of the Pharisee named Nicodemus.

Here are two definitions of a Pharisee (noun):

1. a member of an ancient Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious practices, liberal interpretation of the Bible, and adherence to oral laws and traditions.

2. A self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

Back to Nicodemus, let us read the Scripture passage, John 3:1-14 (ESV):

You Must Be Born Again

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3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

While Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus in this passage as a Rabbi and a teacher sent by God, he chose to visit our Lord at night, so as not to be seen by other Pharisees. Here a ruler of the Jews, whose understanding of the miracles and teachings of Christ are limited and restricted by a legalistic interpretation and understanding of these events. What is clear in this account is Nicodemus lack of spiritual insight evident by his question to Jesus about one being “born again” which describes a spiritual transformation, symbolized by baptism in the water. Christians will often demonstrate their faith by being baptized or immersed in water, after making a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is the act of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit that makes one born again, not being immersed in a body of water.

Imagine an inmate locked inside a prison, where there is no available pool, river or even bath for immersion, making a decision to confess past sins and a sinful nature, accept gifts of the salvation from Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This raises the question, “Does the absence of a body of water to baptize this prisoner, prevent the person from becoming a Christian?” After all, did the Holy Spirit not come upon Christ until after Jesus was baptized by John, the Baptist?

Well, for those of you who recall the lesson on the Day of Pentecost, shared here earlier at BLCF, may recall that the Holy Spirit came upon about 120 believers cloistered in a room for 10 days after Christ’s ascension, 50 after his resurrection. The account describes the Spirit arriving like a mighty wind, with each individual alighted by a flame-like glow. The detailed account of the Spirit’s arrival gives no mention of water baptism of those believers or of the 3,000 additional converts who received the Holy Spirit after hearing the Apostle Peter’s sermons and being convicted by the Spirit. The believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit, not in water.

Nicodemus did not understand, asking Jesus “How can these things be?” Jesus expressed a concern that this religious leader of the people of Israel not understanding something that is of the Spirit. For God, Heaven and even Jesus before he came to earth are not of the world, but of the Spirit. How can one teach about things that are Holy and of the Spirit, when they have trouble understanding the Spirit’s purpose and actions in the world? It was evident that Nicodemus’ problem was the absence of belief or lack of faith.

Nicodemus had a head knowledge of God and the Holy Scriptures but lacked the faith to receive the Spirit’s help in understanding God’s purpose and plan. He was a captive, held prisoner by following the letter of the law, and not allowing the power of the Spirit to set him free from captivity of legalism, Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV):

The Law and the Promise

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23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 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.

So Christ came to the world, not to end or replace the law, but to assume the guilt, judgment and punishment under the law for everyone’s transgressions, Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV):

Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

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17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, the standards of the law are so great, no one can be considered righteous enough to enter Heaven. But God has a plan to enable us to overcome the guilt of sin by faith in Jesus, Romans 3:21-26 (ESV):

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

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21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  

And by receiving righteousness through faith in Jesus, we must keep out faith and trust in Christ, Colossians 2:6-14 (ESV):

Alive in Christ

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6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,             12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

There are many ways that the excess baggage we carry could hamper our walk in the Spirit. If, like Nicodemus, we tend to rely strictly upon the letter of law, we will hamper the work of the Spirit in our faith walk. Satan uses such baggage to draw believers away from the Lord. Thus admonition: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Even after God sent Jesus to die for our sins and overcome the judgment for the law, we still hear those who non-spiritual questions, for example: “What is the proper attire for the church; do I wear a suit and tie?” Or when in prayer we may ask: “Is it necessary to cover one’s head and must we observe a diet that is in agreement with the law?” And so on…

The original Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, had literally hundreds of additional Mosaic Laws added by people over the following years, which I believe was not what God had intended to guide His People. Otherwise Moses would have been given additional tablets to Moses in the first place!

We know Jesus condensed original ten down to two; loving God and loving your neighbour.

To test whether the law is given from God and being of the Spirit or from man and being of the world; we should ask whether it matches one of God’s Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai or the two given to us by Jesus. If the answer to this test is “no”, then the law came from man, not from God, and observing such a law may be more important to other men than it is to God. Jesus said that we cannot go to Heaven on good works but by faith.

Keeping any of His laws is meaningless without faith, as many people have a tendency to muddle and confuse God’s Law with worldly laws. That is why God provided a Spiritual solution to a worldly problem of sin.

Satan would love us be preoccupied as to whether we eat pork, or cover our heads in prayer, or should we be baptized in water, or ask which is more important: whether we observe the Sabbath on a Saturday or Sunday? All of these types of questions act to distract us from worship and perhaps even diminish our faith in Christ. Let us keep our focus on our faith in Jesus and our growth in the Spirit while observing God’s Laws. All the other things in this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, let us discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gift of the Holy Spirit and Gospel of the Lord.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

Benediction: (Ephesians 1:3-4) – Spiritual Blessings in Christ:                        

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.


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A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ’

© January 3, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin January 3, 2016

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Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616: (Christian Baptism – Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer                                                                                   

Hymn #251: My Song Shall Be of Jesus; Choruses

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

Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-18, John 1:29, John 3:1-8

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service, on this, the first Sunday of 2016, which is a Communion Sunday.

Our lesson for today, A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ,’ we give us an opportunity to reflect upon the events of 2015, while anticipating the hopes and expectations of the New Year, 2016.

Christians today, as in the years past, find the Christmas Season fraught with assaults against God, our faith and our Savior. It is around Christmas and Easter, the naysayers come forth to either deny the existence of Jesus and the truth of the Lord’s Gospel, or to promote a theory that Christ did not exist, or was not Savior.

It seems that no other faith is the subject of so much derision and attacked to the extent that is our faith in Christ. But the gospels are full of warnings that believers in the resurrected Christ may anticipate to see a parade of false prophets and perversions of the truth. We see an example of the agenda of proponents of this anti-Christian theology in the way we mark our calendars, where B.C. and A.D. are being replaced by B.C.E. and C.E., respectively. We find a Wikibits explanation for the meaning and motives for such a change as follows:

B.C. /A.D. versus B.C.E. /C.E.

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Our calendar is based on the birth of Christ; all years before Christ’s birth have traditionally been designated B.C. (before Christ) and those after his birth as A.D., an abbreviation for the Latin term Anno Domini which means “in the year of the Lord.”

Some historians have adopted an alternative dating system, referring to B.C. as B.C.E. (Before the Common Era), and to A.D. as C.E. (Common Era). The change was made to mask the Christian basis for the dating system and presumably make it more palatable to non-Christians.

The new designation is unsatisfactory on several levels. In the first place, no “common era” exists. It can’t be found in history books or the dictionary. It was just made up. If there is a common era, it didn’t begin in the year one; it probably began around 1500 A.D. when ocean exploration connected the world in a global trading network.

On a cognitive level, B.C.E. and C.E. repeat the same letters in the same order making the distinction between them harder for the eye and mind to grasp than the traditional system that uses all different letters. To understand the meaning of dates, readers may have to stop and consciously translate the letters.

The politically sensitive thinkers who developed the new terminology were not so bold as to identify a new, logical, non-Christian basis for dating time such as the beginning of agriculture ten thousand years ago or the beginning of civilization five thousand years ago. Instead, they kept the Christian system but attempted to obscure its historical origin, a curiously anti-historical act.



While some historians have an agenda focused on removing Christ from Christmas and modern calendars by using B.C.E. and C.E., no effort has been undertaken to make our nomenclature for “politically correct” by renaming the months named for Roman gods: January, February, March, April, May and June. Certainly Christians could be “offended” by the use of Roman gods to name the months is the same way non-Christians object to the acknowledge each year including and following Jesus’ birth as an Anno Domini or Year of the Lord and any year preceding his birth as an acknowledgement as well.

Many view the New Year as a time for resolutions for change, improvement, and reconciliation in our lives. So it is not surprising that while many such expectations answered by the birth of Jesus; others perceived his arrival as a threat to their own personal authority, as we see in the first of our Scripture verses, which tells of the arrival of the Magi or Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-18 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

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13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Herod Kills the Children

BLCF: Herod the usurper

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

Since the Wise Men brought three different gifts to Christ child, offering him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, we may infer that there were three Wise Men, with each bringing a gift for the newborn king.

Some try to disparage the Wise Men as astrologers and Wikibitsdictionary.com define as astrology as follows:

astrology – definition

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A study of the positions and relationships of the sun, moon, stars, and planets in order to judge their influence on human actions. Astrology, unlike astronomy, is not a scientific study and has been much criticized by scientists.

If the Magi were just interested in studying the Star of Bethlehem, they would have neither acknowledge to star’s arrival as a fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy of the birth of the Christ child, nor would they arrive to worship him with valuable treasures. The fact that an angel had warned the Magi not to return to Herod indicates that there may have been some Divine influence which brought the Magi to Jesus and consequently gifts worthy of a king were brought to the Lord.

No doubt when Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt, these valuable gifts were used by the three refugees while in exile until the time that they returned.

I find it ironic that many who profess to be Christians today have little or no sympathy for the plight of the refugees in the Middle East, fearing the refugees may harbor a threat to their way of life. This perceived threat parallels the motive which prompted Herod to kill all the male infants age two years and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

I feel that God, the Father, knew of the danger from Herod and He provided a way of escape by an angel’s warning to Joseph and the gifts of the Magi.

The date of Christ’s birth is so significant to history that events are observe to have occurred on a date defined as a year preceding or following the year that Jesus was born. While AD or Anno Domini translates as the “Year of the Lord”, Christians mark the date of their re-birth as a child of God some thirty three or so years later, following the Lord’s death, resurrection, ascension, and Day of Pentecost, which collectively mark the birth of the Church, a body of believers, who having demonstrated faith in Christ by confessing their sins, following the Way of the Lord, receiving the Spirit and teaching the Gospel.

That Gospel message being that: Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death; his death was for our re-birth, as was acknowledged by John the Baptist in John 1:29 (ESV):

Behold, the Lamb of God

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29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Just as Jesus was born to mature to become the Savior from the judgment of the sins of humanity, believers must be willing to be reborn through faith, by God’s Holy Spirit, as indicated in the account of Nicodemus in John 3:1-8 (ESV):

You Must Be Born Again

Be still and know HE is God!

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Footnotes: a. John 3:2 Greek him b. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7 c. John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit d. John 3:7 The Greek for you is plural here e. John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

Just as our Lord grew from an infant to a child, and then a man, those who are re-born or born again in Christ are expected to grow and mature in the Spirit. And with the maturity of Spiritual growth, Christians are expected to take upon themselves the responsibility of preaching the Word or the truth of Christ’s Gospel to others, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 (ESV):

Preach the Word

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I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 4:3 Or healthy

For our closing prayer for this New Year 2016, I would like to read to you ‘A Prayer for Peace’ by St. Francis of Assisi, which gives a good outline of how we may best achieve the task of preaching the Gospel in thought, word and deed. What better way to implement a Christians’ desire for resolution for change, improvement, and reconciliation in the New Year of their rebirth and the future.

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Let us pray…

Hymn #220: Break Thou the Bread of Life                                                        

Communion Scripture Versus: 1 Corinthians 10:16-18, 11:23-26

1 Corinthians 10:16-18 (ESV)

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16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 10:18 Greek Consider Israel according to the flesh

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

BLCF: Communion Sunday

23 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[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for b.1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25

Benediction – (Psalm 90:14): Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

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