may 24th, 2020 – waiting

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Let us pray together:
 
Loving God,
     you have given us life
   with all its possibilities for growth.
You made us in your own image –
   responsible and creative,
     open to great visions,
  and capable of great imagination.
 
In Jesus Christ you have shown us,
     what we might be.
When you raised him to life
     you showed us that death is not the end
   for those who put their trust in you.
Thank you for this new life in Christ
     and for the hope of its future fullness.
 
This day we thank you especially for this community –
   we thank you for all that it means to us.
 
We especially remember with gratitude
     the ways that you have taught us
   and shaped us through this church.
We thank you for a community of faith in you
     and all that we see of you through these people.
 
O gracious and holy Father,
      give us wisdom to perceive you,
   diligence to seek you,
     patience to wait for you,
  eyes to behold you,
      a heart to meditate upon you,
    and a life to proclaim you,
  through the power of the Spirit
    of Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Amen
Baptist Union of Great Britain

                                   

 
The Sun Will Rise (click here for audio link)
 
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
     bringing life to the earth as it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
     won’t you dry all your tears, lay your burden down
  won’t you dry all your tears lay your burden down
John Arndt
David Gungor

Dear Theophilus, I wrote about Jesus in my earlier book. I wrote about what he did and taught until the day he was taken up to heaven. Before Jesus left, he gave orders to the disciples he had chosen. He did this through the Holy Spirit.   After his suffering and death, Jesus showed himself to the disciples to prove that he was alive. Over a period of forty days, Jesus appeared to them from time to time to speak to them about God’s kingdom.
 
One day Jesus was eating with them and he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.  You have heard me talk about it. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
 
Then the disciples gathered around Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you going to give the kingdom back to Israel now?”
 
Jesus said to them, “You should not be concerned about times or dates. The Father has set them by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will tell people about me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria. And you will even tell other people about me from one end of the earth to the other.”
 
After Jesus said this, he was taken up to heaven. The apostles watched until a cloud hid him from their sight.

 

While Jesus was going up, they kept staring at the sky. Suddenly two men dressed in white clothing stood beside them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. But he will come back in the same way you saw him go.”
                                                                                                                        Acts 1:1-11

 
Our hearts are empty without You
     barren and cold
   but for the bold hope that You, Yourself planted within

In the mighty name of God
     in the saving name of Jesus
   in the strong name of the Spirit

We come  
   we cry
     we watch   
   we wait
     we look
   we long for you
David Adam
Jim Croegaert

Hey everyone – it’s good to be with through the technology of waves and wires.  I hope that you are finding some opportunities to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. 

 

As you know, this month we have been highlighting our church’s ministry partners.  We’ve asked each of them to send us an update, including ways that we can best support them at this time.  Today we are highlighting Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre and the link to access Cathy’s update is just below the link for this liturgy.  If you would like to hear it now, just pause this, click the link and you can have a listen. 

 

Today is the seventh Sunday of Easter Celebration. As I have been saying each week, during this season we are spending time in the stories surrounding the resurrection, reflecting on and trying to better understand their implications to us. Last Thursday was Ascension Day.  In the flow of the Church Calendar, it is the day we focus on Jesus’s return to heaven and remind ourselves what his return to heaven means for us.  There is an Ascension Day liturgy posted on our site that reflects on this and if you want, you can have a listen at your convenience.   

 

But for today I want try putting ourselves into the ascension story.  We’ll join the disciples as they stare into the sky watching Jesus disappear into the clouds.

 

Just before we get into the story, I want to quickly give a little bit of background to the text that was read.  The author who wrote the book of Acts, also called The Acts of the Apostles, was a man named Luke.  This is the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke.  Luke was not Jewish, so in that respect, he was a bit of an outsider.  He became of a follower of Jesus, or a Christian, through the stories that were passed on about Jesus.  In fact, the stories of Jesus seem to have captivated his attention so much so that he left his profession of medicine (he was a doctor) and began to investigate and compile eyewitness accounts of people who had spent time around Jesus.  His intent was to put together an accurate account of the life of Jesus to pass on to others, especially the people who were not Jewish.  In particular, Luke wanted to help a Roman official named Theophilus know with certainty that the stories he had been taught about Jesus were true. Both the book of Luke and the book of Acts were written to Theophilus. So just in case you were wondering about the mention of Theophilus at the beginning of our text, that is the background.

 

Ok, so let’s get into the story.  As we have discovered over the past few weeks, after the resurrection Jesus would appear for a moment and then be gone again.  Jesus had told the disciples that they were to wait for the gift of the Spirit, and it seems that he also had told them to meet one last time for some final instructions.  The Gospel writers all have slightly different versions of this but it there is a moment where Jesus meets up with them somewhere in the outskirts of Jerusalem. 

 

Even this meeting has with it elements of confusion.  Matthew says that the eleven disciples all meet up with Jesus.  They all see him, they all worship him, but some doubted.  Matthew doesn’t say anything more almost like bullet points from the minutes of a meeting:
 
-meeting called by Jesus on mountain
-those in attendance: Jesus and the eleven disciples
-those absent:  tragically, Judas
-meeting was called to order by Jesus
-all of disciples recognized Jesus and worshipped him
-some of the disciples had doubts
-Jesus gave instructions to keep telling his story
-meeting adjourned
 
(Just on the side, I personally find it encouraging that Jesus doesn’t seem to be troubled by disciples’ doubt and worship coexisting.  Maybe it’s because Jesus wanted the disciple to discover that the action of worship had the ability to push back doubt, to hold it at bay, and to let his presence take root.)

 

But back to this final gathering with Jesus and the disciples…  In this last moment together, Jesus tells them that he wants them to keep telling his story all over the country and beyond.  He also reminds them that they are to wait for the gift of the Spirit.  The disciples are confused as to what the intent of the gift of the Spirit is.  They wonder out loud if that’s when the Roman empire will be overthrown and the kingdom of Israel will be restored.  Like if it the gift is a freedom revolution.  Jesus doesn’t answer their question with clarity, only that they will receive power, and that things will work out according to a timeline set by someone above their pay grade.  And before the disciples are able to ask any more questions, Jesus begins to ascend into the sky and is engulfed by a cloud.  (Remember, that the presence of God was seen in a cloud in the Old Testament)  It strikes me that the disciples have the rare opportunity to peer into the invisible spiritual dimension that is all around.  It would have been pretty mind blowing, I think.   Nobody speaks, just everybody stands looking into the sky.  Maybe Luke edited out Peter saying something like, ‘Holy, Mother what just happened!?’ 

 

For me, the account kind of turns slightly comedic – the disciples are staring into the sky and two men are suddenly there asking, ‘Why are you looking into the sky?’  To which I think the disciples, still staring up, would have been like, ‘Why are you not!  He was standing here talking and then he just lifted off – it was crazy.’  Then they would have looked over and seen these two men dressed in white – presumably angels – and said, ‘Oh right, because you’re angles.’  Which would have triggered another set of crazy interactions. ‘What!  Now we’re talking with angels?!’ 
 
In the end the disciples, collect themselves and return to Jerusalem where they immediately gather some of the others who had been around Jesus.  And they began waiting.  Praying, trying to figure out what was next, waiting, going to the temple, waiting.  I wonder what this kind of waiting would have been like for them.  Waiting can carry with it lots of emotions.
 
To wait is to stay put or to delay doing something until a particular time or until something else happens.  Waiting can create impatience to do something or for something to happen.  But waiting can also be staying in a place of expectation, eagerly looking forward to something.

 

Just to get us in touch with waiting let’s try playing a game.  I’ll describe a situation that requires waiting and you take note of what it makes you think of or feel.

 

  1. It’s your brother or sister’s dance recital. The recitals are pretty long.  The recital begins and your brother or sister’s group is third on the program.  They finish their dance number and now you have to sit and watch another hour and a half of people dancing.
 
Or maybe it ‘s your sister or brother’s graduation and your last name begins with ‘A.’  Very quickly they make their way across the stage to get their diploma.  Now you realize you have to sit through at least two hours of waiting for everyone else to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.  What is that waiting like?

 

  1. A close friend, maybe even your best friend, has moved away for a year to go to school or maybe has gone overseas to work. They are planning to come home for a visit and have asked to stay at your place.  You’ve gotten everything ready for them – you’ve made plans, you stocked the refrigerator with all their favourite things.  You’ve just gotten a text from them saying that they have just caught their last connecting flight to Saskatoon and will be arriving at the airport in just under an hour.  What is that waiting like?

 

  1. Your child has asked you to go to a party that you know will be a little crazy. Your preference is that they don’t go, but in the end you give in and let them take the car.  You’ve agreed that they will be home by 12:30 am.  It’s now 2 am and your child isn’t home.  They aren’t answering your texts or phone calls and their close friends don’t know where they are. 
 
Or maybe you’re in the backyard and you see your dad fall off of a ladder.  He seems hurt pretty bad.  Your neighbour calls an ambulance and they take your dad to the hospital.  You can’t get a hold of your mom and you have to stay at your neighbours house until someone calls you to let you know what is happening.  What is that waiting like?
 
  1. It’s the middle of a pandemic and the social distancing and Zoom meetings are starting to wear on you. Nobody seems to know with any certainty when things will return to normal.  Nobody seems to know with any certainty when a vaccine will be developed that can eradicate the virus causing the pandemic.  What is that waiting like?

 

Well, the truth is that sometimes waiting is boring, and sometimes it’s exciting.  It can be stressful and at times waiting is frustrating and disappointing.  I think that there is an element to waiting that goes hand in hand with receiving.  And for me, it’s the receiving bit most often triggers my emotions.  Hearing back from a child or a friend, looking forward to spending time with a friend or family member.  Having twenty things to do and being stuck in a long, slow moving checkout line.

 

What are your experiences when you think of connecting waiting with things like prayer, and receiving from God, and seeing the kingdom of heaven coming alive in our world? 

 

Why did Jesus ask the disciples to wait?  What was the waiting for?  Did he want to slow them down?  Did he want them to realize that they could only receive if they waited?  Maybe it was a reminder to them, to all of us, that all of life is a slow unfolding of waiting and receiving.  What is clear is that Jesus wanted them to wait because he had something he wanted them to have.  A gift, a presence, an empowering.

 

What does this mean for us?  What does it mean for us to wait and receive?  The gift that Jesus was referring to has been given.  The Spirit has come.

 

And yet, the truth is that Jesus wants to give himself to us in a deeper way.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is with us.  Wanting to move us, lead us, helping us to be more like the nature of Jesus.

 

And although I know this there seems to be a tendency to forget, or at times to fight it.  So at times I need to ask the question, ‘what’s in my heart?’

 

The heart. The centre or inmost part of who we are.  We live out of our hearts. The things we hold in highest regard flow out of the deepest places of our hearts. We speak of our heart’s holding what we treasure.

 

So when think about this in the light of following after Jesus it can get a little murky.  What I mean is that I say that having a heart after Jesus is sometimes problematic.  I engage Jesus with words, I affirm Jesus with my words, but sometimes the words aren’t flowing out of my heart. It’s more out of routine or intellect.

 

The prophets wrote about this.  About how sometimes the people of Israel developed hearts of stones.  Hearts that lost warmth for God, care for God, intentionality to be open to God.

 

I sometimes struggle with a heart of stone.  An attitude or action that is in no way a reflection of Christ.  Or maybe a deadness of spirit – a spiritual apathy – or maybe it’s just a tiredness and disillusionment.

 

Where where does that come from?

 

It can be a struggle.

 

The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of what waiting on God and being open to receiving from God can bring about.   God says, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’  Ezekiel 36:26
 
Part of waiting and receiving is allowing God to work in our hearts, in our attitudes and priorities.  Allowing the Spirit to renew, refresh, and reignite our passion.
 
In the same way Jesus told his disciples to wait and to receive, he wants us to also wait and receive.
 
Lots of times I think about wanting more, something deeper, having God’s heart pressed on my heart.
 
But I’m learning that wanting something more means that I need to be open to receiving, and sometimes receiving can be hard.  It requires intentionality, it requires vulnerability, and It can make us uncomfortable.

 

If you’ve ever had anyone say to you, ‘Close your eyes and open your mouth.’ then you know what I’m talking about.  Especially if the person saying it is a grubby faced kid with some indiscernible thing dripping from their hand.

 

Receiving takes courage.  It displaces things in us, changes things in us, brings things to the surface, and requires us to let go.

 

Sometimes the very thing that prevents us from receiving is the waiting.  Whether it’s the frustration of a slow unfolding, or the disappointment of being given something other than what we wanted, or maybe it’s the feeling of being alone in the waiting, or maybe we just feel like there is nothing to receive. 

 

Kathleen Norris writes, ‘Over time, I have learned two things about my religious quest:  First of all, that it is God who is seeking me, and who has myriad ways of finding me. Second, that my most substantial changes, in terms of religious conversion, come through other people.  Even when I become convinced that God is absent from my life, others have a way of suddenly revealing God’s presence.’
 
We need each other. We need community. That’s what this whole body is built around.

 

For me, If I’ve learned anything from the resurrection accounts, it’s that Jesus doesn’t get worked up about doubt, or questions, or fear, or even getting things wrong.  He quietly offers peace and promises that his Spirit will always be with us.  In any place we find ourselves in. 

 

In his steady way, Jesus invites us to take the risk of opening up to receive, even if our opening up is only in small ways.  It is in those cracks and spaces that Jesus enters bringing to bear his fullness of life.  Jesus is with us.  He holds everything, his love reaching out to restore, refresh, and reorient.  

 

May his love and compassion strengthen our faith and enliven our hope.  Amen.
 

Gravity of Love (click here for audio link)

I lift my eyes up to the hills
     this my morning song
   where my strength comes from

I lift my eyes up to the hills
     this my evening song
   where my help comes from

This is the gravity of love
     just as the moon follows the sun
You’re all around me
     You’re holding everything

This is the hope of every land
     just as the universe expands
You’re love is reaching
     You’re holding everything

We lift our eyes up to the hills
     when will our help come
   Lord we cry how long

We lift our eyes up to the hills
     even as we run
   hope is chasing us

 

John Arndt
David Gungor
Matt Maher

Let us pray together: 
 
God of grace,
     in your love and compassion
   strengthen our faith and enliven our hope.
 
God of grace
      by your Spirit’s breath
   help us to pray
and to trust you now and every day.
 
God of grace,
  give us wisdom to perceive you,
    diligence to seek you,
   patience to wait for you,
and eyes to behold you.
 
May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself;
     may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in his service;
  may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls.
 
May the blessing of God Almighty,
     the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
   be among us and remain with us always.
Amen
Baptist Union of Great Britain


may 21, 2020 – ascension

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Welcome to our Ascension Day service.
We gather this evening to consider and celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, our risen and ascended Lord.
 
The Ascension of Jesus is a central component of the faith we confess. It was a central component of the story of Jesus which the disciples told as they announced the good news of his salvation and his kingdom. It was woven into their sermons and songs and confession of faith.
 
We find it in Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost, in the hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2:6-11, as well as his summary of faith in 1 Timothy 3:16. We find it in affirmations in Romans, and Ephesians, and Colossians. It forms the heart of the book of Hebrews and is featured in 1 Peter and Revelation.
 
And when the early church crafted the Apostles creed to communicate the core of what Christians believe, Jesus’ ascension was included:
“He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the father Almighty.”
 
So what is so significant about the ascension? Why is it so central to the story of Jesus and to the life of the Church?

 

The ascension marks the culmination of Jesus’s earthly life and ministry. Having completed his mission on earth, his earthly existence was brought to conclusion.

 

The ascension also meant the coronation of Jesus. In his ascension, Jesus was exalted and enthroned as Lord and King. In one sense, this may seem to be simply a restoration of the glory and honour that Jesus had before the incarnation. But in another sense, this was a new development since the one now exalted and enthroned is the one in whom divinity and humanity exists fully and completely. There is a sense in which a profound change took place in God as a result of the incarnation, and that change continues and is confirmed in the ascension. Jesus has taken humanity into God’s divinity. And the exaltation of his humanity is a foreshadowing of the coming exaltation of our humanity as well.

 

A third significance of the ascension is that it fulfils the condition Jesus had said would be necessary for the coming of the Spirit. In his incarnation, Jesus was physically present to his disciples, but was limited to one specific locality at any given time. In returning to God and sending his Spirit to indwell the disciples, though physically absent, Jesus was able to be present and powerfully active among them, and us, in a way he could not be in his incarnated state.

 

Fourthly, in his Ascension Jesus continues his ministry on behalf of his people – a ministry of advocacy and intercession. The love and commitment that Jesus demonstrated on the cross for his creation still find expression from his ascended and exalted position on the throne. As the exalted God-man, he understands our weaknesses and is able to sympathize with us in his role as our Great high priest. As our reigning Lord, he speaks on our behalf, defending us against the accusation of our enemy, the evil one. He continually prays for us to be strengthened in our journey toward him, just as he did for his disciples while he was on earth. He leads and assists his people in their worship of the Triune God; and there he encourages and cheers us on in our race of faith.

 

Writing about the Ascension in the 4th century, St Augustine says, “The Ascension is the festival which confirms the grace of all the other festivals put together—without which the profitableness of every other festival would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, His nativity would have come to nothing . . . and His passion would have born no fruit for us . . . and His most holy resurrection would have been useless.”

 

On Easter Sunday we usually proclaim, “Christ is risen!” On Ascension Day, let us declare, “Jesus reigns!” and, “Jesus is Lord!” This evening we gather to affirm and give thanks for the ascension. Let us lift up our hearts in grateful worship and joyful praise to our ascended Lord and King.
 
 

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Christ the Lord is risen today
earth and heaven in chorus say
alleluia
Raise your joys and triumphs high
sing, ye heavens, and earth reply
alleluia
 
Love’s redeeming work is done
fought the fight, the battle won
Death in vain forbids him rise
Christ has opened paradise

 

Alleluia, oh hear them sing
alleluia, oh death has no sting

 

Lives again our glorious King
where, O death, is now thy sting
alleluia
Once he died our souls to save
where’s thy victory, in the boasting grave
alleluia
 
Love’s redeeming work is done
fought the fight, the battle won
Death in vain forbids him rise
Christ has opened paradise
 
Charles Wesley
Latifah Alattas

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:1-11
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
 
For the LORD Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.

 

God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.

 

Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

 

For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

 

God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.

Psalm 47

Litany of Praise to Christ the Ascended King
 
Jesus Christ. Alpha and Omega.
Jesus Christ, creation and completion,
Jesus Christ, once descended. now ascended.
Jesus Christ, by whom, through whom,
and for whom all things exist.
Jesus Christ. the one who is. and who was,
and who is to come.
Jesus Christ, you are worthy of all glory
and honor and praise.

 

We come, O Lord, on this day of glory
to confess our lack of trust.
While we sing of your lordship over all creation
we have too often acted as though you are powerless
in the face of today’s events.
Help us to live with confidence in your presence today
and in hope for life with you forever
 
We let go of our trust in . . .
     our country,
     our finances,
     our work,
     our abilities,
     ourselves.
 
We put our hope in you.
 
You are our . . .
     strength,
     hope,
     joy,
     future,
     and King.

Love Covers
 
Teach us to let go
to fall into you, God
So You can go where no one else has gone
the deepest places of our hearts

 

And teach us to surrender
teach us to forgive
Teach us to receive all the love
all the love You have for us
 
For love covers a multitude of sins
Your love covers a multitude of sins
 
Teach us to let go
to fall into you, God
So You can go where no one else has gone
the deepest places of our hearts
 
For love covers a multitude of sins
Your love covers a multitude of sins
Isa Couvertier

Affirmation of Faith:

The word catechism comes from a Greek word meaning to teach. A catechism, then, is a teaching tool which is especially suited for oral instruction and is most often set up in a question and answer format. The following questions and answers are taken from The Heidelberg Catechism:

 

     Question:     What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
     Answer:         That Christ, while his disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven
                            and will be there for our good until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
 
     Question:      But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
     Answer:         Christ is truly human and truly God.
                             In his human nature Christ is not now on earth;
                             but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is not absent from us for a moment.
 
      Question:     How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
     Answer:      First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father.
                            Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us,
                            his members, to himself in heaven.
                            Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee.
                            By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things,
                            but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
 
      Question:    Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
      Answer:       Christ ascended to heaven, there to show that he is head of his church,
                            and that the Father rules all things through him.

 

      Question:     How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
      Answer:        First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out his gifts from heaven upon us his members.
                             Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.
The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days, 18-19

 

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
 
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
 
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:14-18; 4:14-16

Before the Throne of God Above
 
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
my name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

 

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Saviour died
my sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

 

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
my perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
the King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
my soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
with Christ my Saviour and my God
With Christ my Saviour and my God
Charitie Lees Bancroft
Vikki Cook

“The ascension is not only a great FACT of the New Testament, but a greater FACTOR in the life of Christ and Christians, and no complete view of Jesus Christ is possible unless the ascension and its consequences are included” (Griffith Thomas, ISBE, Vol. 1, p. 263).
 
We worship an ascended Lord. So when we pray and when we celebrate the sacraments, we must always be thinking of Christ Jesus as our mediator. In his incarnation, Jesus comes into our world, into our life to search for us, lost sinners that we are, wandering in the darkness of our sin and in the confusion of our finitude.
 
In his ascension, Jesus blazes a path for us into the heart of the Godhead. Since our God is a consuming fire, we can only enter into relationship with him under the protection of Jesus, through our union with him in the power of the Spirit. Given that union—made possible by his continuing incarnation—we have access to the throne room of God.

 

When we celebrate communion, we are lifted to this throne room. Even when we are not thinking about it, our humanity is there in the throne room of God, because Jesus is there, fully human as well as fully divine. As hymn writer Christopher Wordsworth put it: “You have raised our human nature on the clouds to God’s right hand; there we sit in heavenly places, there with you in glory stand.”
Laura A. Smit

Let us pray together:
 
God, this God of life and love
has sent an advocate to save us;
Jesus Christ the righteous,
now at the right hand of God.
 
God, whose glory fills our world.
God, whose life is closer than breath.
God, whose love is stronger than death.
 
God, this God of life and love
has sent an advocate to save us;
Jesus Christ the righteous,
now at the right hand of God.
 
Not to condemn but to bring full life.
Not to accuse but to redeem.
Not to reject but to draw close.
 
God who hears the cry of our seeking souls.
God who sees the pain of our suffering bodies.
God who feels the loss of our grieving spirits.
 
God, this God of life and love
has sent an advocate to be with us forever;
the Spirit of truth abides with us eternally.
 
Before us to teach and lead,
within us to comfort and heal,
around us to shield and protect.
 
God, this God of life and love
has sent an advocate to be with us forever;
the Spirit of truth abides with us eternally.

 

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:15-23

Holy, Holy
 
Holy, holy
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Holy, holy
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
who was and is and is to come

 

Lift up His name with the sound of singing
lift up His name in all the earth
Lift up Your voice and give Him glory
for He is worthy to be praised
for He is worthy to be praised
Nathan Fellingham

Let us pray together:
 
God our Father,
make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ.
May we follow him into the new creation,
for his ascension is our glory and our hope.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

 



may 17th, 2020 – follow me

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

God all loving and all caring,
     we come before you with hesitant steps
   and uncertain motives.
 
We ask for courage to open our eyes
     and unstop our ears,
   that we may be aware
     of all that distracts us from
  whole hearted commitment to Christ.
 
We want to see ourselves as you do
   and live our lives as you intended.
 
Expose in us the empty and barren places
   where we have not allowed you to enter.
 
Reveal to us where we have been indifferent
   to the pain and suffering of others.
 
We want to sweep out the corners
     where sin has accumulated
  and uncover the places 
      where we have strayed from truth.
 
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
   and put a right spirit within us.
 
Nurture the faint stirrings of new life
     where your spirit has taken root
   and begun to grow.
 
We long for your healing light to transform us,
   for you alone can make us whole.
 
In your mercy shine upon us, O God,
   and make our path clear before us.
 
Amen
Baptist Union of Great Britain
 
Everything We Need (click here for audio link)
 
In the morning Lord we do look to You
     for the strength we need just to make it through
Have mercy
 
In the evening Lord we look back and say
     it was in Your strength that we made our way
Have mercy
 
You are everything we need
     feed us Lord
You are everything we need
     feed us Lord
Gord Johnson

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
 
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
 
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
 
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
 
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
 
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
 
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
 
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
 
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
 
“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”
 
Peter turned around and saw the disciple John following them. Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
 
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
            John 21:15-23
 

 
Holy, holy, holy
     is the Lord almighty
Glory to the Father
     amen

Holy, holy, holy
                   All praise to God
     is the Lord almighty
                          the Trinity
Glory to the Father
     amen
 
Hallelujah, hallelujah
     hallelujah, hallelujah

 

Holy, holy, holy
     is the Lord almighty
Glory to the Father

     amen

 
Hallelujah, hallelujah
     hallelujah, hallelujah
John Arndt
David Gungor

Hey everyone – it’s good to be with through the technology of waves and wires. 
 
Just before we get into the reflection I want to tell you about our ministry highlight.
 
This month we have been highlighting our church’s ministry partners.  We’ve asked each of them to send us an update, including ways that we can best support them at this time.  So today we are highlighting The Quest at Christopher Lake, which is our summer camp.  Dyan Mouland is the new camp director and the link to access her update is just below the link for this liturgy.  If you would like to hear it now, just pause this, click the link and you can have a listen. 

 

If you’re counting, it’s the sixth Sunday of Easter Celebration. During this season we are spending time in the Gospel accounts of the resurrection, reflecting on and trying to better understand the implications of the resurrection of Jesus.  A couple of weeks ago we started the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples on the shore of Lake Tiberius, also known as the Sea of Galilee, and cooking breakfast for them.  This week I thought we’d come back to the story.

 

So just a quick refresher to help get us back into the setting of the story.  It’s post-resurrection and Jesus has been remarkably absent.  The disciples seem to spend much of their time hiding behind locked doors sifting through the stories and rumours about Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.  They have all seen Jesus at least once. He told them to wait in the city until they received power from on high.  Of course we know that ‘power from on high’ is code for the Holy Spirit but I don’t think the disciples understood that.  And so they waited, and waited, but nothing seemed to happen – just more silence, and dead space, and isolation, and absence of Jesus.

 

So Peter announces that he is going to go fishing. Several others decide to tag along with him and the group of them fish all through the night without catching anything.  As the first light of morning breaks, a man on the beach calls out to the disciples in the boat asking them how the fishing was going.  Of course we know that the man calling out is Jesus but the disciples don’t recognize him.

 

They yell back that they haven’t caught anything.

 

So Jesus hollers back for them to throw the net on the other side of the boat.  The disciples pull in their nets and throw them on the other side of the boat.  Immediately their nets are filled with fish.  When this happens John immediately recognizes that the man on the shore is Jesus.  He says to Peter, ‘It’s Jesus!’  As fast as he can, Peter jumps in the water to swim for shore.  The others in the boat follow behind hauling the giant catch of fish.  When everyone got to shore they found that Jesus had a meal set out for them and he invites them to eat breakfast. The text says that ‘no one dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they all knew it was Jesus.

 

I’ve been trying to imagine what the meal would have been like.  I could go with quiet, like a holy reverence. Or I could also see it as a breakfast filled with conversation – the disciples being so filled with joy to see Jesus again and so happy to be able to spend time with him again that they wouldn’t have been able to stay quiet.  I think it also had potential to have been a really awkward meal – like there was unfinished business between Peter and Jesus and so things felt heavy.  Although I admit that has more to do with being able to read backwards into the story.  Remember at this point, Peter has already seen Jesus twice and there had been no mention made.  The truth is we don’t know.  What’s important is that everyone in the story knows that they are in the presence of Jesus who has risen from the dead.

 

After breakfast, as things seem to be winding down, Jesus invites Peter to go for a walk.  And as they are walking Jesus asks Peter if he loves him more than these. 

 

So this is an interesting question.  There is debate as to what Jesus is referring to when he asks Peter if he loves him more than these.  There are some who feel that Jesus is making reference to the disciples.  This is based on Peter’s declaration, along with the other disciples, that even if everyone disowns Jesus, he never will.  As well, as we are going to see, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times which seems to reference Peter’s denying Jesus three times.  There are others who suggest that Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than the fish that they have caught – the implication being that Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than his vocation fishing.

 

I tend to gravitate to the second interpretation but not in an ‘over and against’ way.  I think there is merit to both suggestions and perhaps Jesus asks both of these in his conversation with Peter.  Brendon is going to be teaching on this passage next week so you can tune in to hear his take on the question.  (hint, hint)

 

In the flow of the story it seems to me that Peter went fishing because is at some level he had given up on the resurrection.  Not that he would disagree with the premise that Jesus had rose from the dead – he had seen Jesus. But it seems that Peter had given up on the idea that anything was going to change as a result of the resurrection. Jesus was absent, the thing Jesus had told them to wait for hadn’t come, and increasingly all they had was silence and doubt.  Peter seems to have gotten to a point where he just couldn’t take the silence and sitting and waiting and the ‘nothingness’ any more.   I think fishing was a back up plan – that Peter was returning to fishing because he had come to the conclusion that it was time to get back to a making a living.

 

So, back to the question.  I don’t imagine this exchange as Jesus scolding Peter.  I hear it as quiet, earnest, and with so much gravity.  Jesus asks Peter, ‘Do you love me more than these?’  I think he is asking Peter if Peter loves him more than his vocation of fishing.  The nuance of the question being Jesus asking, ‘Hey Peter do you love me enough to leave what is familiar, safe, maybe even lucrative and follow after me, giving your life to the work that I have begun?’
 
In the account Peter answers,  ‘Yes, Lord Jesus, you know I love you.’
 
To which Jesus replies, ‘then feed my sheep.’ (Which is Jesus saying to Peter, ‘then take care for everyone I love – guide, guard, nourish, and shepherd them.’)
 
This happens three times.  After the third time of Jesus asking Peter if he loves him Peter’s feelings are hurt.  It’s painful to Peter I suspect because it would definitely bring to mind that he had Jesus denied three times, but it was also have been hard for Peter to think that Jesus didn’t believe him.  Peter exclaims, ‘Jesus you know all things, so you know that I love you!’
 
Then Jesus lays out for Peter what loving him will cost.  He says I want you to look after things for me but know that it will you cost you your life.’  And then it almost seems like Jesus asks, ‘Will you follow me?’ because there seems to be a pause in the conversation. 
 
It seems like Peter takes a second to take it all in and to consider what Jesus lays out for him. In his head Peter is replaying all of this.  Jesus wants me to follow him, he wants me to continue his work, he wants me to care for and look after his followers but it’s going to cost me my life.  And then Peter looks around, almost as if he’s wondering if he is going to have some company in all of this because he sees John walking behind them and says to Jesus, ‘Well, what about him?’ 
 
So classic.  More like me than I care to admit.  Yes, Jesus I hear what you are saying.  You want me to follow after you and if I do I am going to lose my life.  Hmm.  I’m not sure I’m all in on that.  What about them over there?  Do they have to do the same?  Is there a better offer?  Or maybe, I’ll follow it if they have they have to come to.    
 
Jesus doesn’t seem to be phased by the question.  He doesn’t tell Peter off.  He simply says, ‘Hey Peter, I have things for him to do as well.  But my question for you is will you follow after me?  I am the Good Shepherd that doesn’t want to lose even one lamb.  Will follow me in that work even if it costs you your life?’
 
I think part of what Jesus is doing is helping Peter that resurrection living lies in ‘feeding His sheep.’  In other words, in resurrection all things were made new but now Jesus needed Peter, and the disciples, and followers, and us to love and care (to feed) for people and help them (sheep) to understand what Jesus has done and wants to see unfold in their lives. 
 
Like Jesus saying to us, ‘To love me is participate in the work of all things being made new.’ and then asking us, ‘Will you follow?

 

To follow sometimes is a tricky question.  We often want to know everything first.  Why should we follow?  How far do we have to go?  What will we get for our trouble?  Where will following take us, like where are we going?  What’s at the end?

 

And following Jesus is an ‘all-in’ kind of following.  That as we follow Jesus it becomes apparent that the following is not passive.  The ‘follow me’ is not just walking beside or watching from afar.  It’s not like following on Facebook or Twitter.  The invitation to follow Jesus is about him establishing his presence in our lives.  Not just in our grand vision statements but in how we live.  How we organize our time, energy, and resources.  It’s about giving to people the same thing we receive from Jesus.
 
One of the things that is important to be reminded of is that even in the hard places that following Jesus may take us, he has promised to be there with us, and not only that, where he asks us to follow he has already been. 

 

I like Peter.  He doesn’t always get things right.  There were moments when he denied Jesus, there were moments when he compared himself to others, there were times where he caved to cultural pressure, there were times when he thought he failed at things.  But in getting to know Peter we are reminded that the love of Jesus meets us in all of those places too. In the same way it did for Peter the love of Jesus carries us, reorients us, heals us, forgives us, empowers us, and holds us. 

 

To follow Jesus is to embrace His love, to tell his story, and to be directed by His Spirit regardless of where it may lead.  May we lean into the love of Jesus and let it fill us, direct us, and guide us.  In simple form, following Jesus is found in love.  Love for Jesus and love for people.  So in this coming week it’s my prayer that we can find ways to receive love from Jesus and be love on behalf of Jesus.  Amen.
 
 
Your Love Remains (click here for audio link)

 

Through the darkness, through the fire
     through my wicked heart’s desire
Your love remains, Your love remains
 
Though I stumble, though I falter
     through my weakness  You are strong
Your love remains, Your love remains
    
Oh my, my soul it cries
     oh my, my soul it cries out
Soul it cries out, soul it cries, it cries out
   
Through my failure, through my heartache
     through my healing, in my pain
Your love remains, Your love remains
 
Though I stumble, though I falter
     through my weakness  You are strong
Your love remains, Your love remains
 
Oh my, my soul it cries
     oh my, my soul it cries out
Soul it cries out, soul it cries, it cries out
John Arndt
David Gungor

Let us pray together:
 
From where we are
to where you need us,
Jesus, now lead on.
 
From the security of what we know
to the adventure of what you will reveal,
Jesus, now lead on.
 
To mend the fabric of this world
until it is refashioned into the shape of your kingdom,
Jesus, now lead on.

 

From where we are
to where you need us,
Jesus, now lead on.
 
Amen

Baptist Union of Great Britain

 



april 19th, 2020 – the road

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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april 12th – resurrection sunday

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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april 10th – good friday

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 

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april 9th, 2020 – maundy thursday

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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april 5th, 2020 – Palm Sunday

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Resources For Holy Week

As we begin our journey through Holy Week, we’d encourage you to use these two resources to shape your time either personally, or with others in your home. We hope that you’ll find some good ideas to get you started in your reflections and we’d love to hear about your experiences as you journey toward Easter.

Holy Week Activity Guide

Stations of the Cross



march 22, 2020 – peace


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