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Sunday Summary

Pentecost

Pentecost

It’s Pentecost, a significant day in the Christian Church.

Jesus told his followers to wait in Jerusalem for something amazing to happen. What that something was must have been a mystery as Jesus spoke of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1: 4-5)

Jesus spoke often about His sending the Spirit to take over His work. In John chapters 14 and 15 Jesus makes reference to the Spirit’s presence in our lives providing guidance, instruction, understanding of the truth and ultimately of pointing us to Himself.

We see Pentecost as the beginning of the church age. Not that the Holy Spirit wasn’t active in the lives of God’s people until then, but it was different.

Image of College Ave Church

In the Old Testament we have God being present with the nation of Israel in a specific place. First was the Tabernacle which was a tent like abode which suited their wilderness experience as the tent could be moved. Eventually Solomon built the Temple and God’s presence was understood to abide in the Holy of Holies, within the center of the Temple.

The Holy of Holies was behind curtains and only the high priest would enter once a year, sprinkle the mercy seat with blood to secure forgiveness for the nation as a collective act.

The Temple was everything. When the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah in 588 BCE, they tore down Solomon’s magnificent Temple. Not that they didn’t appreciate beautiful architecture, but it was to show that Babylon’s god’s were superior to the God of the Israelites.

When Jesus comes along, the Temple has been rebuilt and we read of Jesus spending time there, teaching and healing. That’s where God did things. But Jesus got into trouble by telling the religious leaders that the Temple would be torn down and he would restore it again in three days. Of course, the temple he spoke of was Himself, but it was seen as blasphemous talk and an attack on the very centre of Judaist worship.

There’s more to this than meets the eye. Jesus was saying that the importance of the Temple was about to change. God’s Spirit was going to abide in God’s people and not in a building, as beautiful as that building might be.

When Jesus was crucified, we read in Matthew 27:51 that the veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The significance of this was that experiencing the presence of God wasn’t going to be restricted to the High Priest once a year.

Therefore, the instruction to go to Jerusalem and wait, something that is usually hard for most of us to do.

Wait for God to do a new thing. And Pentecost was a new thing.

That’s the heritage we enjoy as God’s people. An intimacy with God through His Spirit that can lead, comfort, guide, secure and teach and so much more.

I overheard someone say the other day that the Government had shut down all the churches.

No!

The Government has shut down all the buildings, but really to be fair, Covid-19 has shut down all the buildings. But the church remains active because we are the church, the people who believe that Jesus died and was resurrected so that there would be a group of people who attest to the love and grace of God.

That’s the amazing thing I mentioned earlier.

Wait for the Holy Spirit to come and make your life different.

 People who live, not for their own benefit and gain, but for the good of others.

That’s the calling that we need to endeavour to live up to.

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Sunday Summary

Dealing with Disappointment

If you’re keeping track, this is the seventh Sunday of Easter. Hard to remember Easter. It’s the Sunday that wasn’t, as far as an Easter service is concerned.

Next week is Pentecost and then the Church begins counting the Sundays after Pentecost taking us all the way into September. Some indications are that we may not be gathering for worship again until September, and that’s a disappointment.

Which brings me to the subject of my reflection for this Sunday.

The final event recorded in Acts chapter 1, before we get to Pentecost in chapter 2, has the eleven remaining Apostles dealing with the issue that Jesus had chosen 12 of them and with the death of Judas, there was desire to replace him and get the number back to twelve.

We might wonder about the importance of twelve. Jesus may have been making a connection with the nation of Israel, the people to whom he first came. Jacob had 12 sons and these eventually made up the 12 tribes of Israel and so the remaining disciples may have believed that there was a need to return the number of Apostles to the original 12.

We read in Acts 1: 12-26 that there were 120 followers of Jesus still meeting in a room in Jerusalem when the issue of choosing a replacement is first broached by Peter. (Interesting to note that 120 is 10 times 12, which may also have been a number significant to them.)

The decision is to nominate two who are recognized as having been followers of Jesus from the beginning. Interesting to note again that although Jesus had an intimate relationship as teacher with the “twelve” we refer to as his disciples, there was actually a much larger contingent of both men and women who followed him from the beginning of His ministry. These we can properly refer to as Jesus disciples as we can for the millions of followers from His resurrection until today. If we count ourselves as followers of Jesus, we are numbered among His disciples.

The Apostles however, were the 12 distinct men that Jesus chose to work with and to imbed His teaching so that they might continue His work following His ascension.

So, the trivial pursuit question is, “How many Apostles were there?’ You know the answer if you have been listening when I have played with this before. You would logically say 12 and I would say no, there were 13 if you count Matthias, and then I would confuse you further by saying that there were actually 14. In Paul’s letter’s he claimed Apostleship because of the intimate relationship he claims to have had with Jesus even though Jesus had already ascended into heaven.

How many disciples were there? The correct answer for the win and the jackpot is probably fourteen.

But I digress.

Two are chosen, Matthias and Barsabbas. They pray for guidance, cast lots, which may be another means of saying they had a private ballot vote, and Matthias was chosen and Barsabbas was not.

So, the question implicit in this reflection is how did Barsabbas handle the disappointment of not being chosen, not being the first choice of his other friends?

With that, how do we handle disappointment, especially the disappointment that

Covid-19 has brought into our lives, and there’s lots of it.

I mentioned the Easter Sunday that wasn’t. Of all the services to have to cancel, Easter is the celebration that marks the Christian Church. It’s the grand celebration, even more important than Christmas. And we missed it, because we had to.

I’m often asked when we can expect to get back to church. I have no idea and there’s a great disappointment in having to admit that. On a family note, Pam and I have two wonderful granddaughters in Niagara and the best we can do is Facetime, which is a blessing in itself, but it can’t compare with seeing them and hugging them.

I won’t create a great list. I’m sure you can fill in the issues that are bringing disappointment to you and your family and friends.

Back to the question of how Barsabbas handled his disappointment. First off, it’s interesting to note that Matthias is not mentioned again in scripture. Then again, neither are most of the Apostles once we get past the Gospels. What happened to the second name on the ballot, the loser? Well he shows up again, later in the Book of Acts when the church in Jerusalem decides to send a couple men to accompany Paul on a trip back to Antioch to bring words of encouragement to that congregation. They choose Silas and Barsabbas and describe them as leaders in the church. 

Barsabbas obviously got over his disappointment and continued leading the Jerusalem congregation. What a great example for us. It’s easy to want to throw our hands in the air and give up or as some are advising, to just get back to life as we knew it. Cronid-19,

Let’s pretend it hasn’t happened.

I’m sure Barsabbas had opportunity to sit with his grandkids and share with them that he was almost chosen as Apostle number 13, but it didn’t matter to him. He was dedicated to Jesus and was willing to carry on and do whatever God had in store for him.

He’s a great example, although unrecognized by many of us, as a man who dealt with his disappointment and continued serving his Lord.  

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Sunday Summary

May the Force Be with You

It’s the Victoria Day weekend. Although it’s hard to think that having Monday as a day off has any special appeal just now. The name of the day has morphed to the May 2-4 weekend, refereing to the 24th day of May that has been the traditional day of celebration. For some the term 2-4 has to do with Bud Lite or any other number of beers available in a 24 pack. I wonder what Queen Victoria would say?

2 Thessalonians 3:16. Now may the Lord of peach himself give you peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.

Another day in May has taken on a new significance. It’s the 4th of the month. The original Star Wars episodes brought us the term “May the Force be with you”. I can still see Obi-Wan Kenobi giving guidance to Luke Skywalker to trust in the guidance of the “Force” in that final battle between good against evil.

If I can use that term again, it has morphed into “may the 4th be with you.” I emailed a reflection on May the 4th and invited any who couldn’t connect with the term to ask for an explanation. A couple of you were willing to admit to having missed the world of Star Wars.

Back in 1977 when Pam and I came out of the theater, having watched the first episode, I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, as a Christian, to have that sort of connection to the “Force” in our lives, the force of God, the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promised us that we would have a special relationship with the Father through the Spirit and made that promise to his followers. They were told to hang around Jerusalem (see Acts 1: 4-5) for a few more days so that the Holy Spirit could flood their lives with power and connection. That event did indeed happen, and we celebrate that day in the church as the Day of Pentecost.

Earlier, in discussion with His disciples, Jesus promised them that his going away was a good thing for them. Once he was gone, he could send the Spirit to be everywhere at once as opposed to being locked in one place as He was in His human body.

I wonder if we need that sense of God’s presence now, as much as any other time on our lives, as we live through this pandemic.

Paul picked up on the theme of what we might expect from God’s Spirit if we allowed ourselves to live God’s way. He wrote the following and Eugene Peterson decided to give us a new take on His words. It’s a beautiful rendition for those of us who have heard these words so many times before. A new look at what we call the “fruit of the Spirit” can be a good thing.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” Galatians 5: 22-23

The suggestion is that when we open ourselves to God’s Spirit there are gifts available to us. Nothing we have to struggle for. They are God’s gifts to us.

Things like, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Hard not to fall back on the words we have always used before. However, perhaps we should go back once again and read how Eugene has coined the phrase, just so that we don’t get so familiar that we miss the impact of what The Spirit has for us.

We have a long way to go before we get back to the 4th of May. A long way to go before we get back to life as it was, if indeed we ever do. Nice to know we don’t have to wait for that day to come again before we can meditate on the truth that the Force wishes to be with us. It’s the promise that Jesus made to his followers, those who walked with Him in Judea, and the rest of us who have chosen to follow Him.

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Sunday Summary

A Man Walked Into The Wilderness…

A man walked into the wilderness. No it’s not the opening line to a joke, it’s the serious experience of Jesus when he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to sort out the challenges he will have to deal with in his life. This rather tough experience comes just after the joyful celebration of Jesus baptism. It’s an example of the two sorts of experience even we can have in our lives.

In the wilderness, Jesus answers the temptations by quoting his scriptures, the Torah. For each temptation he has an answer.
They include, we don’t live by bread alone, but by understanding the word of God, we are to worship God and God only and it’s not smart to try to put God to the test.

Following 40 days of this sort of struggle it’s off to a wedding. When the wine runs out, Jesus’ mother challenges him to solve the problem.  She’s not suggesting that he and his disciples make a quick trip to the LCBO; but rather he use his power as the Son to help the celebration continue. Jesus pushes back at first and then does what any good son does: listens to his Mom and turns some water into wine. Not just some, possibly 120 to 180 gallons to be specific. 

We see two possible lessons in this. Although water into wine seems a rather trivial endeavour, it’s Jesus way of saying that God is concerned about even the most mundane of our needs. The other has to do with God being the God of abundance. When Jesus feeds 5000 with a few fish and loaves, there are 12 baskets over the need. When Jesus resolves to get involved with the wine, he supplies more than the Best Man could have ever hoped for. We can go to God in prayer with our most basic needs and expect God to go over the top when God chooses to answer.

Pastor Lloyd