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Sunday Summary

Three On The Road

I never miss the opportunity to share this story each Easter season.

Two men walking on a road, despondent about the events of the last few days in Jerusalem. Joined by a stranger who overcomes any concerns about his intentions by entering into a discussion about their apparent discomfort.

A stranger who seems to play with them at first by pretending he’s oblivious to the recent happenings.

A stranger who becomes somewhat belligerent by calling them dim-witted.

A stranger who insults, but them amazes them with his insight into what has actually happened in Jerusalem. Their own scriptures lay it all out that the Messiah would suffer for the world, not wield a sword for a temporary victory over Rome.

A stranger who again would feign having somewhere else to be until he’s tempted to stay a while for wine and cheese.

A stranger who turns out to be the one they have been discussing all day.

The one who died and is now alive.

A stranger who sends them back to Jerusalem with this great news.

It’s a wonderful story, adding to the wonder of Easter Sunday. Whenever I prepare this message, I can’t help but see the players in my minds eye. See the two men, see Jesus, see their amazement once they recognize the stranger for who he is.

Beyond the great story however, there are lessons to be learned from their experience.

A question often asked in Bible discussions is “why didn’t they recognize Him?” There are a number of answers that would be best discussed when we can meet together again in the Parlour for a study.

A spiritual lesson for all of us might consider how often we walk down this road of life, with Jesus at our side, and we don’t recognize Him.

We’re actually not looking for Him because we have everything under control. We don’t really need Jesus’ help, because we are totally self-sufficient, until we’re not. Then we’re likely to ask where Jesus actually is in our dilemma and anxiety.

Jesus promised to be with us until the very end of the age. (Matthew 28: 20).

He also promised that The Spirit would be our help and guide. (John chpts 14 & 16).

We should learn to recognize the presence of God in our lives as we are all facing dilemma and anxiety in this age of Covid-19.

The other interesting lesson is that once Jesus decided to tune these two in, he didn’t get involved in a heavy discourse about the meaning of it all. Instead he as much as said, you guys should know all this. They were Jewish men who would have all been versed from childhood in their scriptures. Therefore, the dim-witted comment. Jesus takes them back through the teachings of the books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets that all painted a picture of a suffering Messiah.

We can assume that the truth was beginning to dawn on them. However, it took one more experience to open their eyes. When Jesus took the bread and wine and served it to them it took them back to a time of Worship and then it all came together.

The truth included in our scriptures along with the experience of worship can bring it all together for us. Can open out eyes to the presence of the Eternal One, able to help us through any difficult experience.

I know we don’t have the opportunity to worship together, but the reading of a select passage followed by a time of meditation on is truth can give us that experience even if it is an individual moment of worship.

Finally, you have to love the moment when they get back to the other disciples, unable to hold back the news for even a moment longer that Jesus has risen to have the other disciples say “ya we know, Peter told us already.” Life can have its moments, can’t it.

This story ends with Jesus appearing to them all. Being present in the room when this happened had to make the run back to Jerusalem well worth the effort.

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Sunday Summary

Easter Morning

Christ is risen

He is risen indeed.

That’s the common greeting in many of the emails and texts I’ve received over the last few days. It’s good to be reminded that this is what Easter is all about.

If there had been no mention of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels, we would not be that worse off. I’m sure of culture would have come up with another opportunity to drive our consumer society with reason to buy gifts and light our homes.

If there were no Easter, no risen Christ, then the faith we practice, as believers in Jesus’ resurrection, just wouldn’t exist. Easter is the most significant day in the Church calendar. Perhaps that’s why today is the most difficult day to be staying home and living in isolation.

But consider this. We can’t join together at College Ave but Jesus can join each of us where we are.

In John’s Gospel we read in chapter 20 that on that first day, the day of resurrection, Jesus suddenly shows up in the room where the disciples are trying to hide away from the Jewish authorities. I mentioned in an earlier reflection that He didn’t knock because He didn’t want to frighten them. None the less, they must have been shocked to see Jesus suddenly standing there.

It’s interesting to note that the first thing Jesus says is “peace be with you”. The word shalom is a common Jewish greeting. If this had happened in Canada, He might have said “hey” or “howdy” in the southern states. But no, Peace is more than the common greeting of the day, it’s the message they need to hear. It’s also the message most of us need to hear.

In an earlier discourse with His disciples Jesus elaborated by saying “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Don’t be troubled or afraid. I’m sure that’s what Jesus’ followers needed to hear and I’m sure his comments about not being troubled or afraid would have resonated in their minds.

Perhaps that’s the message many of us need to hear today. Jesus showed up in the room where they needed him the most, stood in their midst and said “PEACE”.

Happy Easter

Pastor Lloyd

PS.

In Kevin and Heather’s Easter greeting, that I sent out last night, they mentioned not being able to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” It has always been my favourite Easter carol, if I can call it that.

I’m thinking that if I send you the lyrics it may get planted in your minds for the day as well. It’s an old hymn from the pen of Charles Wesley but retains a beauty in both its melody and words.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the vict’ry won, Alleluia!
Jesus’ agony is o’er, Alleluia!
Darkness veils the earth no more, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
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Sunday Summary

Palm Sunday

Our usual expectation for this Sunday would be to see children in the church, along with the Sunday school staff, circling the sanctuary as we sing Hosanna, Loud Hosanna. Unfortunately, not this year.

It wasn’t known as Palm Sunday that first time. It was a regular beginning to Passover week. Jerusalem was beginning to fill up for the celebration centered on the nation’s release from Egyptian captivity.

If anything was different that year it was the buzz in the air about a prophet in the area. Could he be the Messiah spoken of for so many generations? The chosen one who would redeem the nation of Israel and establish self-rule once again.

The word on the street was that he had healed the sick, fed large crowds with meager provisions and most recently raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Although that last rumour was probably stretching it a little.

Suddenly in the middle of the day, there he is. Riding on a donkey surrounded by his entourage of close followers. Those who have noticed his arrival in Jerusalem have begun to break off palm branches and lay them along the path he is taking. And so, we have the beginning of what will be known as Palm Sunday.

It’s an interesting motley crew of different participants in this one act play.

First there’s the crowd, getting excited about Jesus arrival and hoping that he will bring to fruition the great prophesies from their past.

The disciples are caught up in this same excitement, although they’re thinking of their role in Jesus new government; thinking about which portfolio he will assign to them as he sets up his kingdom.

The Roman soldiers are on edge, wondering if they will soon be in conflict with this large Passover crowd, and have to use their short swords to restore order.

The religious leaders have been anticipating his arrival, plotting how to rid the nation of this rabble rouser. Not because they are particularly bad men but because the Romans allow them to worship at the Temple and keep their Jewish laws. In the past other nations have never allowed this. If Jesus has his way, he may instigate a tearing down of the Temple with misguided plans to build it up again in three days. That statement, if no other, tells them that they are dealing with a delusional man.

Then there’s Jesus. Coming into town on a donkey. Doesn’t he know that conquering kings such as Caesar enter on a white stallion?

But Jesus is the man of peace.

He has indeed come to establish his Kingdom, but it has nothing to do with Jerusalem in this time and place. His Kingdom will be greater in scope. His Kingdom will encompass the whole world and it will be initiated through sacrifice, not the sword.

It will be founded on love not power.

Jesus is the only one who knows how the week will end, in his suffering and death. Jesus is also the only one who knows how next week will begin. His miraculous resurrection which will change the world forever.

I wonder what’s going through his mind as he is witness to all the revelry, aware that all of these people, other than the Romans and his own Jewish religious leaders, will be devastated by the end of this week.

We’re told that we are facing another couple of weeks of isolation and frustration and for some fear and anxiety. But as the songwriter wrote:

Then came the morning
Night turned into day
The stone was rolled away
Hope rose with the dawn

This Coronavirus stone will also be rolled away, and we will celebrate morning again. Hope will rise as the dawn, as night is turned into day.

Blessings.

Pastor Lloyd

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Sunday Summary

Living in Community

This Sunday we’ll be missing “Pizza Sunday”.

I enjoy Pizza Sunday. How can you not enjoy a feed of Pizza paid for by the Men’s Club? It’s not only pizza after church that I enjoy, it’s the many times we gather following worship service to sit together, enjoy each other’s company and share in ice cream, soup, muffins, cheese and crackers along with so many other fine foods.

We don’t do it as a means of enticing anyone to come to church. As good as our meals may be, they are not sufficient to change anyone’s mind about attending a morning service. We do it because we are relational by nature. We have been created to live with each other, to not be alone as God stated in Genesis when we were being created.

And we are relational because God is relational. God has been revealed to us as a mystery of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and these entities are presented to us as being in a relationship of love.

The community we know as the church, is called and designed to be a community in relationship based on love, first of all the love that God has for us and then the love that we can share with each other.

Jesus prayed before his arrest that the love that God the Father has for Jesus would be an experience of love that we too would enjoy.

This is a message we can’t emphasis enough as it was driven home by Jesus and recorded in John’s gospel.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

This drive, to be in relationship with each other, helps to explain the anxiety some of us are feeling as we are absent from each other for another week, unable to worship and enjoy fellowship with each other.

But this love is also a source of strength in a difficult time such as this. God’s love is perfect, and John reminded us that perfect love casts out all fear.

Be Strong

Pastor Lloyd

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Sunday Summary

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem with his disciples fully aware of the suffering that awaits. What spurs him on is his realization that Resurrection also awaits, an event that will change the world forever.

On the way he meets a blind man and in that most unusual scene he cures the man’s blindness with a mixture of spit and dirt, placing the mud mixture on his eyes.

The story then becomes a rather comical play between the Pharisees, Jesus, the man and his parents. When they question the man, now living in the newness of a life of sight and fearing no one, he takes the opportunity to give the Pharisees some lip. The Pharisees claim Jesus is a sinner because he broke the law in healing the man on the Sabbath. The man wonders how a sinner can do such wonderful works. When the Pharisees keep on questioning him the former blind man wonders if they are asking all of these questions because they too want to be Jesus’ disciples. At which point the only retort of the law makers is to insult the man.

Then it’s time to hear from the parents who show their serious anxiety about getting into a verbal joust with the powerful. When asked how this happened all they can think to say is “don’t ask us, ask him, he’s old enough to speak for himself”.

Interesting to note that the Pharisees never confront Jesus directly. Those confrontations have never gone well for them and by now they know better.

There is an interesting and somewhat controversial comment by Jesus when his disciples ask why this man is blind to begin with. Is it because he sinned, or his parents sinned? Begs the question of how someone could sin before birth and suffer such a consequence.

Some translations seem to suggest that this man was burdened with blindness for this specific moment. It afforded Jesus the opportunity to heal him and make it a teaching moment for his disciples.

Some newer translations however put a different slant on Jesus’ answer. Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (The Message)

It’s about what God can do for us in any situation.

Like the blind man in the story, we too are living in a sort of blindness as we struggle through this Covid-19 uncertainty. We can struggle with a multitude of questions and work ourselves into a state of fear and anxiety or we can hear the words of Jesus.

“Look instead for what God can do. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

The Message

Pastor Lloyd

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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