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Sunday, August 29, 2021

International Music on the Porch day August 28, 2021

 International Music on the Porch day August 28, 2021

Support your Local Musicians and the Venues where they play. Masterpiece, Words, and Music © by Terry Sywanyk.





https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10166371039545500&id=65686549


We miss the music, the fellowship, and the love at the cafe,
but getting it from the porch is the next best thing.
(just like Peter's message from the portico). Thanks for
giving us a blessing in song. God Bless.

Sunday, April 18, 2021






Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hosanna: Our Cry; HIS Reply

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is palmsunday-jesus-painting-thinkstock-sedmak.jpg

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 Hosanna: Our Cry; HIS Reply’  

 © March 28, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 13, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin April 13, 2014

BLCF:  hosanna

Announcements and Call to Worship

Responsive Reading #625 (The Triumphal Entry – Mark 11 and Matthew 21);  Prayer

Opening Hymn (See back of Bulletin): Hosanna

Scripture Verses: Zechariah 9:9-10, John 12:12-36, Psalm 92:12-15

BLCF: Galatians_6-8

BLCF: Hosanna_guitar Let us pray…

Today is Palm Sunday, an important day on the Christian Calendar. For Catholics, who sometimes refer to today as ‘Passion Sunday’, it marks the last week of Lent, a period of self-sacrifice prior to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For all Christians, it marks the start of Holy Week, a time when Jesus, as fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah, triumphantly enters Jerusalem, riding upon a donkey:

BLCF: hosanna

Zechariah 9:9-10 (ESV)

The Coming King of Zion

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;     

righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey,     

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim     

and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,     

and he shall speak peace to the nations;

his rule shall be from sea to sea,     

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

BLCF: Hosanna Palm Sunday

We began today’s lesson, with a Responsive Reading, which paraphrased the accounts of Christ’s arrival that were recorded by the disciples Mark and Matthew. Though the reception given by the people for Jesus’ entry to the city was like that given to a king, the mode of transportation he elected to use was not what the world would expect of arriving royalty. Instead of a noble horse or stately chariot, Christ arrived by means of a donkey, the same mode of transportation that his mother Mary used to go to Bethlehem, when she and her husband Joseph travelled to respond to the Census call by Caesar Augustus, as told in Luke, Chapter 2. This is where the similarity ends, as our Lord’s journey to Jerusalem was in response to a higher calling, rather than a response to the Emperor of Rome. And our Lord intended to do more than what the disciples had expected, which was to go to the city to celebrate Passover. Jesus intended to glorify God, and restore the separation of the people from Him, which was the result of sin.

.

BLCF: Matthew_21_Leullier

Let us, again review the account given by John, which he authored as an apostle of the Lord, rather than as a disciple. You may be aware that John’s Epistles were authored some 30 years after Passover, where the disciples, following the ascension of the Lord and the Day of Passover, had received God’s Holy Spirit, so that by the Great Commission of Christ, became Apostles of the Lord, no longer Disciples of Christ. That is why I elected to use John’s account of Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. John had the advantage of knowing how, when and why Jesus would glorify the love and compassion of God towards a humanity who were facing the judgement of sin, which is death.

BLCF: Palm Sunday

John 12:12-36 (ESV): The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming,      sitting on a donkey's colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” Some Greeks Seek Jesus 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.

John was able to give us a better understanding of the purpose and plan for Christ’s entry into Jerusalem upon a humble donkey. Christ was aware that in order to remove God’s judgement upon the world, Jesus would have to take upon himself the punishment for all of humanity’s collective sin. In order to achieve this sacrifice, the Lord had to step down from his throne, like the seed of grain, and die in order to bear much fruit. Jesus is the grain; his death would be on the cross; and the fruit that he bears would be the gifts of salvation an eternal life. The other gift we see in verse 31, is that that Satan, who is ruler of this world, is cast out. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus simultaneously has conversations with the Father in heaven and with the people gathered around him. It is interesting to note, that some of the crowd thought that when God spoke, they thought it to be thunder, while others thought that an angel was speaking. And let us look again at verse 27 and 28:

  27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  

This brings us to the title of today’s message: 'Hosanna: Our Cry; HIS Reply'.To understand what is meant by this title, must first understand what we mean when we say, or as we had sung earlier, Hosanna. And for a definition, let us look at the Wiki bits from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

BLCF: Hosanna

Hosanna (/hˈzænə/) is a liturgical word in Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism, it is always used in its original Hebrew form, Hoshana. Christianity: "Hosanna" was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" It is used in the same way in Christian praise, especially on Palm Sunday which commemorates that event. Etymology: The word hosanna (Latin osanna, Greek ὡσαννά, hōsanná) is from Hebrew הושיעה־נא, הושיעהנא hôshia-nā’ which is short for hôšî‘â-nā’ from Aramaic הושענא meaning "save, rescue" (possibly "savior"). In the Hebrew Bible it is used only in verses such as "help" or "save, I pray" (Psalms 118:25). It is applied in numerous verses of the New Testament including "Hosanna; blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11.9), "hosanna in the highest" (Mark 11:10); "hosanna to the Son of David" (Matthew 21:9). The old interpretation "Save, now!", based on Psalm 118:25, does not fully explain the occurrence of the word in the Gospels as a shout of jubilation, and this has given rise to complex discussions.

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

 BLCF: Hosanna_by_right__hand

So it appears that we have Hosanna, according to Wikipedia, described both as a shout of jubilation and a cry for salvation! Our opening hymn was the former, while in John 12:27, Jesus spoke of Hosanna as the latter. In a sense, Hosanna is both. Christ chose not to be saved from his death on the cross, in order to give humanity the celebration of victory over death, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for humanity’s sake. His loss was our gain. I think that it is safe to conclude that the crowd shouted ‘Hosanna’ to celebrate the Messiah’s arrival, while at the same time asking Christ for their salvation. Jesus had yet to die on the cross, and humanity was subject to God’s judgement and punishment for sin. So the Hosannas were a plea to God for His mercy. After Jesus died, the Hosannas that we sing are praises to Him, acknowledging His love and mercy, provided by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The next question we might ask is: Why was the palm branch used to carpet the path of the donkey which carried our Lord? Here is a portion of an article on the subject by André Roosma:

BLCF: Hosanna

The Palm Tree in the Bible: Full of Rich Symbolism

André H. Roosma, 28 January 2012 (NL orig.: 11 Jan. 2012)

The Bible presents a lot of symbolism featuring the palm tree. God refers in His Word to a number of characteristic aspects of the palm tree:

  • an abundance of especially refreshing fruits;
  • its growth: rather fast, and straight up;
  • the ever-green leaves at its top;
  • with its raised branches/leaves (the official term is: fronds) at its top it seems to worship God the way it was done in Biblical times: with raised arms;
  • to that end, those fronds let themselves easily moved by the wind (compare: the Spirit of God);
  • by its example and by its fruits it stimulates men to look up and to listen to God.

The most widely used Biblical Hebrew word for ‘palm tree’ is תמר - tamar. In the old pictographic script this is: - literally: ‘the sign of water/abundance of the Other (God). The first time this word tamar appears in the Bible is in Exodus 15: 27 and parallel in Numbers 22: 9. Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they encamped there by the water. On their voyage from Egypt the people of Israel came in Elim, where, it says, there were 70 palm trees. Now 70 is in the Bible the number of great fullness. Did one date palm in the desert already mean good news, a fullness of palm trees was extraordinarily refreshing for the people. Together with the twelve water wells, one for every tribe, this was typically a sign of God’s blessing and care for them. He granted them to be refreshed and to receive new energy.

http://www.hallelu-yah.nl/thepalmtree2.html

 BLCF: hosanna_palms

And to those familiar with the Scriptures, the palm tree represented those who receive the righteousness of the God, by way of His righteous Son, Jesus. As believers and followers of the resurrected Christ, we may bear the fruits of His Holy Spirit by sharing the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the earth, which is the ‘Great Commission’ Christ gave to us. We are reminded of this, by the Psalmist in Psalm 92:

BLCF: Psalm-Sunday_

Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV)

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree     

and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;      

they flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They still bear fruit in old age;      

they are ever full of sap and green,

15 to declare that the Lord is upright;     

He is my rock,

and there is no unrighteousness in him.

BLCF: Holy Week

Let us then consider our Hosanna, as our Palm Sunday prayer of praise to a God Who is merciful and kind, with a great love for us. And as a sinful world cries out for salvation from judgement; God replies by offering a path to salvation by way of his Son, Jesus:

BLCF: John_3-16

John 3:16 (ESV): For God So Loved the World

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

BLCF: God loves you this much

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #63: ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Benediction - (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24):

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.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

BLCF: Christ-the-seed-that-dies

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Daylight Savings Time - Wake Up And Go To Sleep!

Daylight Savings Time kicks in this weekend. So remember to set your alarm for 2AM Sunday in order to wake up and set your clocks ahead 1 hour then go to sleep!

⏰😫

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ

Dear BLCF Friends, 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020 and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you an Epiphany Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith. – Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 3, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Lessons Shared at BLCF on January 1, 2020, December 29, 2013, and December 28, 2014

BLCF Bulletin December 28, 2014

BLCF Bulletin December 29, 2013 

Welcome and blessings of the New Year to all on this, the first Sunday of 2021, the Sunday closest to January 6, which is the day that many churches observe the Epiphany, marking the manifestation of the Christ or Messiah, who is our Lord Jesus.

When I talk about Epiphany, we should not confuse it with the secular use of epiphany, such as the 'Eureka!' moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes' principle. By contrast, the Epiphany which is the subject of today’s lesson is spelled with a capital “E”, a term Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested, or expressed to all. We find a little more background on Epiphany from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name "Epiphany" comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means "to show, make known, or reveal." The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added - the visit of the three Magi, Christ's baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences. For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father's unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                       


 Author Johann Roten posted the the following about Epiphany in the East and West, posted on the University of Dayton Web site:

Epiphany

The feast of the Epiphany, as we presently understand it—the adoration of the Magi—is found very early in Gaul, where it probably predates Christmas.  The Council of Saragossa in 380 decreed a three-week fast before Epiphany.  The feast existed in North Africa in the time of Augustine.  Several of Leo the Great's sermons witness to the feast's observance in Rome.  The principal object in the Roman liturgy is the adoration of the Magi. However, the feast of the Epiphany most certainly originated in the East, where it is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria.  It may have been assigned its date in reference to a pagan feast.  

In the Egyptian calendar, the winter solstice and the feast of the Sun-god were observed on January 6.  On the previous night, pagans of Alexandria commemorated the birth of their god Aeon, supposedly born of a virgin.  It was also believed that the waters of rivers, especially the Nile, acquired miraculous powers and even turned into wine on this night. This may be a partial explanation, why it is difficult to circumscribe the original object of this feast in the East.  By the fourth century Epiphany could embrace the birth of Christ, His baptism, the adoration of the Magi, and the miracle at Cana.  According to some liturgists (cf. C. Mohrmann), Epiphany was an idea feast (as opposed to an event feast) from the beginning and admitted any manifestation of the divine power of Christ. As a matter of fact, in classical Greek epiphany and theophany designate the manifestation of a divinity and, later, important events in the life of a king.  

Epiphany is first used in a Christian sense by St. Paul for both the first and the final comings of Christ (Titus 2:11-13).  The word epiphany was soon used to describe the miracles of Christ as manifestations of divine power. St. John Chrysostom explains the eastern meaning of Epiphany with these words: "We give the name Epiphany to the Lord's baptism because he was not made manifest to all when he was born, but only when he was baptized, for until that time he was unknown to the people at large."  In similar fashion, St. Jerome, drawing upon his Palestine experience, declares that the idea of showing forth (Epiphany) belonged not to the birth in the flesh, for then he was hidden and not revealed, but rather to the baptism in the Jordan, when the heavens were opened upon Christ. 

According to oriental ideas it was through the divine pronouncement "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," that the Savior was first manifested to the great world of unbelievers.  The western tradition of this feast lies more along the line of what we are used to call fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding).  

There is no overwhelming Epiphany or divine manifestation on the path of the Magi.  The Magi were wise men who saw the star and its unusual brightness.  Steadfast in the resolution of following the divine call and fearless of danger, they traveled, inquired, explored, and let themselves be conducted by the star to the place where they were to see and worship their Savior.  But again, no divine pronouncement thundering from open skies, only a poor babe in a manger.  As St. Leo the Great put it, "When a star had conducted them to worship Jesus, they did not find him commanding devils or raising the dead or restoring sight to the blind or speech to the dumb, or employed in any divine action; but a silent babe, dependent upon a mother's care, giving no sign of power but exhibiting a miracle of humility." Eastern theology has always been eschatological in thrust, eager and anxious to show the unabridged Godhead in all its splendor and majesty, beyond and in spite of its manifestation in human condition and according to human categories.  

Western theology in turn develops according to a different religious sensitivity: it is more incarnational, amazed by and preoccupied with the miracle of humility, God's being in the flesh and becoming one of us.  The spirituality of the East is a spirituality of vision, based on "ta phota" (what is visible) or illumination, the Jordan experience; the spirituality of the West is the spirituality of journey, originating in God's call and transformative power, it is the "Magi-experience." Yet, both traditions are but two different and complementary facets of the same reality, just as ear and eye are dependent on and complement each other.  In a similar way, the Feast of the Epiphany manifests the comprehensive reality of God's encounter with humanity: it shows not only God's self-giving presence in the miracle of humility, but also his authoritative self-disclosure at the baptism of Christ. Epiphany manifests not only God's gratuitous and hidden presence to us, it also reminds us of our personal and active role in this encounter with God, made explicit through the acts and gestures of the Magi. The Magi offer to Jesus as a token of homage the richest products their countries afforded - gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold, as an acknowledgment of Christ's regal power; incense, as a confession of his Godhead; and myrrh, as a testimony that he has become man for the redemption of the world.  But even more important than gold, frankincense and myrrh were the dispositions the Magi cherished in their souls: their fervent charity, signified by gold; their devotion, figured by frankincense; and their unreserved sacrifice of themselves, represented by myrrh.       

In the Middle Ages it was customary on this day (January 6) to bless homes with the newly-blessed water, and with incense.  Later the initials of the names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) were written with blessed chalk on or above the doors of homes.  CMB stands also for Christus, Manisionem, Benedocal (May Christ bless this home).  May these initials be carved on the doors to our spiritual homes, too, as a reminder, that each one of us is called upon by God's Epiphany to the world to assume a threefold role: that of the child, the disciple and the steward.  As a child we receive and cherish God's Epiphany to us; As a disciple we follow God's call to crib and cross; and As steward we are accountable to God and the world of what we did to his Epiphany, understood as vision and journey. - Johann Roten    


Depending upon which scholar that you talk with, the passage in the Bible that describes the event of Epiphany of our Lord could be any or all of three different events in the earthy walk of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

 1) The first is the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi to visit the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem.

 2) The second is the Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

 3) While the third is the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. 

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar. The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of the Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 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. 

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

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star, Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):                                                                                

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

And nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother, his brothers, his sisters and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. 

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

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature. Our third Scripture verse for today describes how the spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.” 

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

Epiphany  marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus: his birth as prophesized in scripture, supported by the visitation by the Magi; the power of the Lord being manifest by his transformation of water to wine; and alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism supported by words spoken to John by God. All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Divine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man. 

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary. Before he died on the cross, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Divine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

 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 

 Have a blessed and safe New Year 2021, filled with hope in God's love, grace, and fellowship.

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020 and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you an Christmas Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith. – Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!'

© December 25, 2020, by Steve Mickelson

Based on the Message Shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF Church on December 30, 2018

blcf bulletin december 30, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn # 115: Go Tell It on the Mountain 

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

Responsive Reading #615: Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2) 

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!'

 Let us pray… 

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for Christmas Day 2020. As often happens towards the end of a year, we reflect upon the past year and anticipate what the future year may bring us. Looking back over these events, it is not unusual to reflect on both the joys and challenges of the previous year but to contrast them with those of previous years. The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic has brought upon the whole world challenges of anxiety, fear, and despair on a global scale beyond any experienced within living memory. Christmas Day marks the day that believers in the Resurrected Christ, celebrate the birth of our Lord on what we might consider that first Christmas Day, a little over 2,000 years ago. 

Though the birth of Jesus was not marked by a mass per se, visitors did come to the Lord’s birthplace to worship the Christ Child, some bringing gifts to celebrate the newborn King of kings. And annually, the birthday of Jesus is celebrated with worship, song, visitation, sharing gifts, and fellowship with others. Before COVID-19, from January 2008 until mid-March 2020, we at BLCF celebrated Christmas on Wednesday at the BLCF Cafe and on Sunday as far back as 1938 at BLCF Church. Looking back on past Christmases, I recalled one particular Christmas that resonates with our lesson today, ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!.’


It was Christmas 1959. I was just eight years old. I remember the Mickelson family living in San Antonio, Texas celebrating Christmas had its challenges. My younger sister, Rhona had suffered a traumatic spinal injury two years previously leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Though dad had a job in the US Air Force, stationed at a local base, many of the medical treatments and medications for Rhona were neither covered nor available to military dependents. The costs to the family meant that there were not a lot of surplus funds in the family budget to pay for decorations or gifts at Christmas. Still, the family made due. To help pay the bills, Dad took additional work after his daytime job, working as a public information officer with the Air Force during the day, he would work delivering newspapers and later as a journalist by night. Somehow, dad managed to get by with little sleep or no sleep for six days of the week.

 


When Christmas Eve came around, our mom and dad would go to the local farmer’s market late in the evening, just as the stalls selling Christmas trees were closing on. Mom would negotiate the best price on a tree, which had little or no value as it would otherwise be destined to go to the dumpster at the closing time. This is when it seemed like some Christmas magic would take place in the Mickelson home. My sisters and I would have gone to bed, and my parents would get to work decorating the tree with lights, ornaments, and popcorn on a string. Stocking would be hung, filled with mandarin oranges, apples, new socks, and some candy canes or chocolates.

 


Since we had financial constraints, mom initiated a Secret Santa gift exchange. Sometime in early December, family members would put their name on a piece of paper, which would be folded and placed in a bowl. We would each draw a name from the bowl, selecting whom we would buy a gift as a Secret Santa. Mom had saved up for the entire year to provide each of us with $5.00 to spend on a gift for the selected family member. In that particular year, I had drawn my name from the bowl, which normally meant drawing another name and placing my name back in the bowl. However, I told my parents that since I had drawn my name I insisted that I should be allowed to buy a Christmas present for myself. I was surprised when they agreed to my request.



That Saturday we embarked to the Las Palmas Shopping Plaza. I made a beeline to Neisner’s Store with a $5.00 bill in my wallet to purchase a gift for myself.  I ended up buying myself a Lone Ranger cap gun with a holster. The set considered by many today as politically incorrect was at the time the rage among young boys at the time. 

When we arrived home, I wrapped my present, so it could be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve. But as Christmas Day approached, I was saddened by the fact that unlike the rest of the family, I knew what was my Secret Santa gift. There was no mystery or surprise in my gift which removed any joy of anticipation for me. Christmas morning arrived and the family opened their only gift from a Secret Santa, with much excitement and anticipation, except for me, there was no mystery or Secret Santa as I already knew what was under the tree. That Christmas Day I learned some valuable lessons about the sharing of gifts on Christmas Day, particularly the joy of giving over receiving and the excitement of anticipating the arrival of a Christmas gift given in a loving, selfless manner. Our lesson today contains some parallels to my life lesson. While the Jews had anticipated the arrival of s Messiah sent by God, no one knew the day or time the Christ would arrive. Even the mother of the Messiah was initially unaware that she was chosen by God to give birth to him, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b.Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Not only was Mary unaware of her selection to be the mother of Christ, but she was also surprised that she would conceive her child as a virgin. Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, had similar concerns to the news of her pregnancy, but his fears were allayed by the visit of an angel, Matthew 1:18-24 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

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

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

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,

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

While it seems that Mary and Joseph may have been aware of the arrival of a Christ or Messiah for the People of Israel, it appears that neither knew until the angels visited them, that God would choose a woman betrothed to a carpenter as parents to raise His Christ child. The lord had to send His angels them the important place they would have in fulfilling His plan.

We know that there were also Magi or Wise Men, though not Jews, they were aware that God had placed signs in the heavens, so they followed a star to Bethlehem, where the Christ was to be born, Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV):

 The Visit of the Wise Men

 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

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.” Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 716 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9 We see that the Wise Men, the chief priests, scribes, and King Herod were aware of the prophecy of God sending a Christ, the Wise Men sought him in the palace of the king in Jerusalem and Herod was uncertain as to where to find the Messiah. The chief priests and scribes told Herod that the Scriptures indicated that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. King Herod plotted to kill the Christ child, asking the Wise Men to return to him with the location of the baby’s birth. But warned in a dream, the Wise Men returned to their homeland in another way, not telling Herod about the child. Joseph was warned in a dream as well, by an angel of the Lord of Herod’s plan, and fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt until receiving word of the king's death. As we read through the New Testament, we see that many of the Jews, including the disciples, had not anticipated the reason why God sent His only Son, Jesus nor in what manner Jesus would eventually redeem humanity for the sins that they had committed, which was the judgment of death, John 3:16-17 (ESV):

For God So Loved the World


 
16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world 

The first Christmas marks the arrival of a much anticipated Messiah, but the manner of how, when, and where God executed His plan and promise of salvation through His only Son, revealed events that were unexpected, filled with mystery, wonder, and joy. This is the message of Christmas: to be blessed with His most precious gift to all who have faith. May you all have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy 2021. 

 Let us pray…


Closing Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day
 

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.