Are We There Yet?
3 – Substance
Mark 4:3-9, 14-20
May 17, 2020
I want to tell you another road trip story where I (at times) just wanted to get home and was asking “Are We There Yet?” It was the road trip that was our honeymoon. I know, this is going to sound like the start of a really bad joke, but let me explain. Shannon was moving from Indiana to Canada. The plan was to load up a Uhaul trailer pulled by my car the day after our wedding, then drive through the night and get to Niagara Falls sometime the next day where we would spend a few days, then begin the long trip across Canada to BC where I lived at the time.
The trip began with excitement. We were saying goodbye to family when Shannon’s dad checked the trailer wheels, and noticed some play in one of the wheels due to a bad bearing. They figured we would be fine to get to Niagara, but we should get it checked ASAP. We left on our way. 45 minutes in, on the Interstate, all the trailer lights died. We had to park in a truck stop parking lot for a few hours only to find out that Uhaul wouldn’t help us until the next day. So, I had to rig up my own fix, bending the wires just the right way, and wrapping it in electrical tape. It was a ‘Red Green” fix without the duct tape. It seemed to work, and we were back on our way (at 2 am).
Then, the cat started up. Shannon had a cat we were bringing with us. And he did not like being in the car in his carrier, and he let us know about it with the most torturous, deathly sounding noises. There was part of me that wanted to turn around, drop him off at her mom’s and let him remain an American cat. But I reminded myself of my marriage vows the day earlier, and the cat stayed. We pressed on though, got to Niagara Falls, and had a wonderful time. I did get the wheel bearing fixed (they said they tightened it), and got the wiring fixed. And we went on our way.
I learned two lessons that trip: 1) I learned that not every hotel I get for free with Petro Points is worth staying in. Learned that twice as I pulled up to two dives (Toronto and Winnipeg) that my wife said no to.
I also learned that in Lethbridge Alberta, after driving across the country, that my trailer didn’t get the bearing tightened in Ontario because there was no bearing there! (I am still not sure what they adjusted that day.) The nice guys at the shop rigged something up so I could get through the mountains safely and home. All that to say, as much fun as we had in Niagara, we were ready to be home. We were asking “Are We There Yet?”
The last couple weeks, I have looked at how we as the church feel the same right now. The current COVID situation has taken us on a journey. We are likely a bit disoriented and lost, and we are tired. We want to stop, park our vehicle and say “aint it good to be back home again?”
Yet in our minds, we know life will be different after all this, and the church is no
exception. The problem is that we don’t know what this ‘different’ will look like. And that is unsettling to all of us. Yet, no matter how different things are, some things never change. God’s desire for us, his mission for us carries on even in such a time as this.
As HMC, we believe God wants us to be “Generations Following Jesus Together”. The last couple weeks we have looked at how Generations Following Jesus Together begins to happen as we be the family / community, or “Gather” as we call it. We talked about the need for togetherness. We talked about how authentic community requires intentional participation, and that practical faith happens in community, together. “Gather” is important. We “Gather” ultimately to do something… We gather to “Grow”.
Generations Following Jesus Together begins to happen as we grow more mature spiritually – growing up in our love, obedience, and service to God; as we grow in relationship with Jesus Christ.
(plant the spiritual seed in good dirt)
Let me tell you a story from Scripture about planting. You can find it in Mark 4:3-20. Jesus here uses a common experience, gardening and growing crop to make a significant spiritual point.
“Scattered it across his field” – This phrase helps us understand the farming technique of the day. The farmer would often sow seed without plowing. Picture a guy standing there, throwing seed out, and where it lands, it lands, even on a footpath. Seeds don’t sink into the hard ground of a footpath and they can’t take root. The seeds then become fair game to the birds. One can’t plant on a hard footpath. Substance matters.
The audience would know this reference well. The shallow, rocky soil was common out there. Palestinian terrain was often rocky and uneven, covered by a thin layer of soil. In this kind of ground, the seeds can at least sink into the soil and take root. But roots are shallow because the ground is too rocky for the roots to go deep. Plants with shallow roots often don’t survive the elements (unless they are specific to that setting). You can’t plant in the rocky ground either. Substance matters.
Sometimes the soil is good, is deep enough, and plants can begin to grow well. But if the plant is in the same bed as something that takes over and kills anything else, eventually whatever you plant will be destroyed. The roots get strangled below the ground as well as the plant getting killed off above the ground. You can’t plant a garden with the blackberry bush! Substance matters.
Just south west of Israel was Egypt. And in Egypt they had some of the best land for growing around known as the fertile plains around the Nile. Even in famine times, they would have crop growth (which is why Egypt survived the famine in Genesis). Seeds that fell on the fertile soil with the right conditions sunk in and sprouted roots that went down deep. Plants grew up strong. Plant in the right soil! Substance matters.
In those days, yields of 5-15X were common and considered great. Jesus says that with things planted in the right soil, the yields will be much higher: 30, 60, and even 100X. Jesus obviously isn’t actually giving a farming lesson. He is speaking of personal spiritual growth and the right conditions, or the right substance for that growth to happen. He says “if you are hearing me, pay attention. Reflect on what I am telling you, figure out the lesson, and apply it!
What happens next is a conversation in private between Jesus and His disciples that I am not going to unpack or try to explain today – it is a whole message in itself. But the summary is that they tell Jesus that they don’t understand what He is saying, and they wondered why He was choosing to speak in parables rather than bluntly and completely clearly. Some of it had to do with the hardness of the hearts of people and that they would not accept what Jesus would say if He were to put it clearly, but more about that another day.
Jesus then begins to explain it, which is where we pick up in Vs 14.
We don’t know who the farmer is. Maybe a foreshadow to the apostles who would carry on the message of Jesus. Maybe it is a reference to Christ Himself. The farmer isn’t actually the main character or focus here. What we do know is that the farmer takes the seed of faith, the truth of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God to the hearts of those who don’t have it with the purpose of that seed planting, sprouting, and growing spiritual crops in their hearts. Hearts are the soil.
The hard soil / footpath is a reference those who had hard hearts to the message. In those days it would have been the Pharisees and Scribes. It is a reference to those who heard the message but would immediately say a determined no to what is shared. And when that happens, Satan comes, like the birds, to snatch away the seeds of faith because he wants to snatch away the opportunity for spiritual growth. Some of his preferred tools are temptation (Mk 1:12-13), and blinding people to truth (2 Cor 4:4). Substance matters.
The rocky, uneven soil is like those who hear about Jesus, and are very excited to believe it, but aren’t strong enough or ready in their heart to stick with it when the going gets tough. They are fickle. Maybe there is something sitting beneath the surface in their hearts (like sin for example) that doesn’t allow for the roots to go deep.
When He talks about “falling away”, it is the same term used in Greek for when the disciples deserted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as He was arrested.
The application here is that life will be difficult, sometimes even as a result of faith in Jesus. If the heart is weak and not willing to be fully committed to the truth you know, live, and believe, then heart is like rocky soil where any spiritual growth is superficial. The roots are surface. Any “heat from the sun” (pressure, persecution ) will cause it to wilt and die. Jesus says all this knowing that in a matter of a few years, the church would be born and endure persecution for faith. Substance matters.
The thorny soil represents a divided heart. It represents someone who wants Jesus sincerely, but also wants everything else. It represents someone who wants to serve Jesus, but also wants to serve wealth, possessions, position, influence, affluence, etc…
This is something Jesus dealt with this in His time as evidenced by the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-25). This young man comes to Jesus, eager to follow Him and be in His crowd. Yet Jesus tells the young man something shocking and hard: sell everything you have so that you can follow me. The man hangs his head in sadness and goes away. Jesus here is highlighting a principle mentioned elsewhere in Scripture (Matt 6:24) that we can not serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other.
The application is that unless Jesus is the #1 spot in your life, and if you aren’t willing to commit to Him at the expense of anything else that would seek to take the #1 spot, your heart soil is divided. It is like a garden with thorny vines; like a flower garden with a blackberry bush. The vines and the thorns strangle, they hold, and they kill off vegetation. Substance matters.
Those whose hearts are open to the Truth, ready to commit themselves for the long haul, let Him be #1 are like a garden with rich, fertile, good soil. They are not just surface deep.
Jesus mentions a couple things that need to happen to cultivate good soil; they need to: hear and accept so they can bear. And when the small seed of faith (tiny like a mustard seed) is planted in that soil, there is a huge crop that comes as a result. Not just the expected good 5-15X yield, but something bigger than can be imagined.
Substance matters. The soil needs to be cultivated, prepared, and mixed with the right nutrients for growth. When our hearts are open to Christ, when we cultivate our hearts, take out the rocky things that stop us from growing deep, take out the thorns that would seek to kill out future growth, we see a huge spiritual harvest in our lives. We see growth in our faith. We see growth in our relationship with God. We see others come to a faith relationship with Christ as well because we drop spiritual seeds from our lives (like any plant that self – reproduces).
How do we cultivate the heart soil? How do we have substance so that there can be that kind of spiritual growth? It has to start in our mind, our spiritual heart. We have to want to put in nutrients and special soils into the mix: Intentional daily prayer, worship, knowing God’s Word, walking with others who will encourage growth and keep accountable, dealing with the weeds, the thorns, the rocks, taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth.
(plant the spiritual seed in good dirt)
1) It is a normal part of the community life. It is natural. (Acts 2:42) What do we see in this verse? We see that as the community got together, that spiritual growth was a normal, natural, and expected part of the community life. They devoted themselves together to the Apostles’ teaching. They devoted themselves together to prayer. They devoted themselves together in the taking of the Lord’s Supper.
2) It is needed if we are to be healthy. (Heb 5:12, 1 Cor 3:2). We need more than spiritual baby food: milk. We need solid healthy spiritual food. Just like we would expect our children to grow out of just drinking milk so that they can be strong, healthy, and full of life, God designed us to do the same spiritually. To stick with the milk, to not crave more and want more is to not grow up to be healthy, to be full of spiritual life, vibrant, strong. It denies us the opportunity to be who God designed us to be.
May 10, 2020
I remember the longest road trip I had been on. It was the summer of 2002, and I was driving to Indiana from BC to see Shannon. The drive was close to 8000km round trip. It was in the Summer, in a small car with no air conditioning (when that was considered a bonus / luxury feature). I love to drive and explore, so I loved every minute of it. I got to encounter tons of new things, see lots of new states and scenery. I even drove through Chicago for the very 1st time and lived to tell about it (those of you who have driven there know exactly what I mean). The most exciting thing for me was that I knew that at the end of the journey, my girlfriend who I only got to see a few times a year would be waiting.
The longest part was the drive home. In one long day, I drove from a location in Indiana, 2 hours south of Chicago, to Lethbridge AB, just south of Calgary. It was 25 hours straight of driving. I Would never do that now. But I was 20 and invincible. I would have stopped if I could but had no money – even the $39 Motel 6 was too much. I tried stopping to rest in my car at rest areas and truck stops, but I learned something about driving through Minnesota and North Dakota at night. Not only is it humid, but it has big bugs. I had no A/C so I was dripping from sweat inside the car if I tried to sleep. And if I opened the window, who knows what ‘friends’ would crawl in. I was uncomfortable to say the least.
I got an hour here, 30 minutes there for a nap. But kept drinking coffee and driving as much as I could (maybe that is why I like Tim Hortons so much now!). I was eager to get to my relatives in Alberta – to a comfortable bed, to a home cooked meal, to air conditioning. I could see the destination in the distance, but for now was stuck in my car. In my mind, I was asking several times “Are We There Yet?”
A couple weeks ago, looked at how we as the church feel the same right now. The current COVID situation has taken us on a different, inconvenient, and uncomfortable journey. We feel stuck, much like I did in my car with no AC, and big bugs outside. We have been on a long trip (because of quarantine, social distancing, closures), and we just want to get out. We hear the governments talking of a gradual opening, and we can’t wait. But unlike me where I knew where I was going, we don’t.
We know life will be different for everyone after all this, and what the church looks like is no exception. The problem is that we don’t know what this ‘different’ will look like. And that is unsettling to us pastors, to MC, to you as the congregation. Yet, there are some core values that are the same no matter where we find ourselves as a church and what is going on around us. We have a vision and we have a mission that God has called us on, even for such a time as this.
As HMC, we believe we are called to be “Generations Following Jesus Together”. We do this as we “Gather, Grow, Give, and Go”. Over the next several weeks, I want to unpack this more in light of our changing world around us. A couple weeks ago, I started talking about the Gather part, the importance of community. I said that “Practical faith happens in community”. Today, want to spend a bit more time talking about the importance of “Gather” – the need for community. And how:
Authentic community requires intentional participation
The church was designed, not to be a building where people meet, but an authentic community who can meet in a building, or today is meeting online; a community who can meet at any time and any place. But in order for the church to be an authentic community, as God designed it, there needs to be buy in, or investment in it. The church family without participation is not authentic community – just a disconnected, dysfunctional gathering of people.
Why should we intentionally become an authentic community?
- God created the church with community in mind
-> There are three different potential applications here to “On this rock”. Not going to unpack them today. But later in this series I want to.
-> Notice one word… on this rock I will build _ church….
-> The church belongs to God, and He builds it. Takes the pressure off of us. Not about our methods, philosophies, wisdom, assumptions, ideas. It has to be about what God wants!
-> First time this term “church” is used in the Bible. And it is Jesus who is speaking of an entity, something He is about to create. A very specific Greek word is used here that goes beyond a light suggestion or casual implication of what the church was to be.
Ekklesia: A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public space, an assembly. In a Christian sense, an assembly of Christ followers gathered for worship. Root words imply being specifically called out to a different purpose. Implication is that God calls us out specifically to be His community, His church, His family.
-> When we look through the pages of the NT, whenever the word “Ekklesia”/Church is used, it is referring to the group of believers as they come together as a community. It is not referring to individual, fragmented, isolated life apart from the rest of the church community. The church has always been a gathering.
-> The church isn’t what we do, it is who we are when we gather…..
-> Authentic community requires intentional participation. This appears to be what God had in mind when the church was created and named. He created the church with community in mind.
Rom 12:3-8, 1 Cor 12:12-28
- We find our purpose within the church community.
-> Both these passages describe something called “the body” that those who follow Christ were a part of. The word used in the original Greek manuscripts was:
Soma: Describes a grouping (small or large) of people who are closely united into one society or family, and in the NT, the church.
-> All who follow Christ are part of a body that is both global – meaning that we are united with all those who follow Jesus around the world – and a local expression.
-> The church is the place on a local level where that family / body identity finds
realization and purpose.
-> It is within this community that each one of us is given gifts, abilities, skills that this community body needs to function to the fullest. Meant to be used and find fulfillment in this community / family.
-> When we do not plug in, we deprive ourselves and the church community of the full potential available. When we do intentionally participate, we and the church are able to become a life giving, life changing, vibrant authentic community where we find purpose and connection.
-> Like the passage says, we need each other, just like the body needs all its’ parts.
-> Authentic community requires intentional participation. We find our purpose within the church community.
- The church community was intended to be at the centre of daily life
-> Often times, the church community has adopted a tendency to be separate from life in general. We are pretty good at compartmentalizing.
-> The church community becomes just something we have to do. Not influential, not important, not a priority.
-> What happens when the church community becomes compartmentalized is that it becomes irrelevant. When it isn’t a part of our general daily life, it loses its impact in any of our life.
-> Yet this is not what Jesus intended when He designed His church – the community of His followers who were a united body, who needed each other to function, to find fulfillment in the setting of gathering together. He intended His church to be at the center of daily life.
-> We see this as we go through the New Testament and look at all the ways in which the church was intended to be a part of daily life.
-> By no means an exhaustive list. Go home today and google “one another verses in New Testament”. I also likely have a list that I will post this week online. And not going to unpack these today. But gives you an idea.
Where needs were met: Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35
Where disputes were settled: 1 Cor 6:1-6
Where support was given: 1 Cor 12:26, Gal 6:2
Where encouragement was received: 1 Thess 5:11, Heb 10:24-25
Where accountability was offered: James 5:16
Where prayer together happened: James 5:13-15
-> This is just a snapshot of all the daily things of life in which Jesus intends for His church (us) to rise up, live, and function together as a community, as a family. The church community was intended to be at the centre of daily life. But in order for this to happen, authentic community requires intentional participation. You need to want to plug in, to be involved, to identify here.
COVID 19 has completely changed the landscape of the church, and how we function. Community life has now, for the most part, gone online. The physical gathering we used to enjoy doesn’t happen. We aren’t getting together in each others’ homes. We aren’t getting together here at the church building. Our interactions with each other are a lot more limited as today, I really don’t have much of an idea who is watching unless you post in here (and even so, I am not able to pay attention to those things). For me it has been difficult as I don’t get to see you all at the door when you are leaving. I don’t get to see your faces, hear your voices. It is a different world.
In some ways, this has been a change that has been long overdue. For a long time, our culture and society has been online, and the church has been resisting the push to get online. Now, because of COVID, we have been forced to go online. And it has given us cause to re-evaluate a lot of what we do and how we do it. What things actually matter and make a difference? What things don’t? What we do know is that we will continue, even as things shift to allow us to be open, to provide an online presence for HMC in addition to the physical gatherings that we will be running.
With COVID, a lot of us have gotten used to not having to leave the comforts of our house to join into any of the church life. Sundays are super casual now. Being able to watch church from the living room, not have to be dressed to leave the house. And if you sleep in, you can watch it later. Everything else is online. And potentially, you could take in a whole week full of stuff here at the church and never have to physically see anyone (minus on a screen). And take it in when it is convenient. There is a lot of convenience now to how we do our church community gatherings – out of necessity.
As we look ahead though, I want to encourage us, when the regulations lift, to fight the urge to stay isolated and disconnected in our homes. Yes, it is convenient, but we are also missing out on the authentic and life changing community that we were designed to be a part of. We need to invest intentionally in our family. Authentic community requires participation.
Being online can not replace physical connection, no matter how hard we try. A family needs to be more than just a virtual family in order to grow deeper. And as we become more isolated in our homes, not participating in the community, the harder it is for us as a community to live intentionally, as a community on mission together in our communities. As cool as being online is, it leads to us being even more disconnected to each other in this community, and to the larger community in which we live.
Gathering can be anywhere, at any time. It doesn’t have to be Sunday at 10am. It can be in your own home with a dozen others. It can be any time of day, over a meal even. And who knows… maybe this will be the catalyst for us launching a whole bunch of home based churches tied into HMC. I dream…. But however we do it, gathering needs to happen. And it needs our intentional participation. We need to pursue authentic community together.
And of course, if you have never met Jesus personally, never started a personal relationship with Him, He invites you to know Him, love Him, and follow Him. He invites you to become a part of His family, His community, and experience belonging on a spiritual level. A deeper purpose, a deeper connection. If that is you and you want to know more, any of us here on staff would love to be able to help you more with that so that you can experience being a part of the life changing community and family that He has designed us for.
Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47 NLT
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Are We There Yet?
1 – Together
April 26, 2020
Growing up, one of my favourite things to do was to go on road trips with my family. There was something exciting about hoping into the backseat of our 1981 Buick Century, and later on our Caravan to go on a family vacation that was exciting. It usually meant camping along the way to go see relatives in another province. It meant seeing new sights along the way, stopping to do fun things as a family as we travelled, and being out on the open road.
I still love road trips. I still love to get the family in the car and go new places. For me, there is something therapeutic and relaxing about being on the open road. My boys, not so much. There is one phrase that every parent has heard when driving anywhere longer than across town that induces complete frustration: “Are we there yet?” And the more that question is asked, the more likely fighting ensues in the backseat. Reason – because they are bored of the journey. They are excited and just want to get to the end destination.
I can’t help but think we are a bit like kids on a road trip (minus the fighting I hope!). Life feels a bit like a road trip right now in that COVID has come in and nicely taken us from our normal routines and life and placed us inside quarantine which feels like being locked up in a car on a long road trip. We know that eventually COVID will end, but our destination may in many ways look different than where we started. The fear of the unknown has passed, but now we are bored, anxious, stressed, tired, and the longer this carries on the more we want to say “Are we there yet?”
As a church we are likely feeling the same thing. We are not meeting together in person. We are now meeting on Zoom, which prior to this many of us hadn’t heard of. Many of us have signed up for Facebook, and you are watching me live this morning from your home. Some of you are watching through our website now, or will later today. Some of you will be watching this on Saturday evening on the community tv station. Some of you are not even able to watch this, and are resorting to reading the transcript later by email or snail mail. We are making a lot more phone calls, and doing whatever we can to stay connected. And yet, as word starts trickling down from our governments about a gradual reopening of our province and country, we look forward to us being able to do some of the things we did as a church. Yet in the back of our minds, we know that being the church may not quite function the same as it did before. And in this in between time, we find ourselves asking (maybe in frustration, tiredness, and stress) “Are we there yet?”
While this morning, I do not profess to know any of the answers of what the future may look like for us, I do know first of all that we have a God who knows all things and is bigger than our unknowns. We need to go to Him in prayer, trust Him, and follow Him as we walk into uncharted, post pandemic territory. Second, regardless of what life will look like a month from now, even though we wonder in confusion if “we are there yet”, even though this is an all new road for us to drive down, some things stay the same. Our identity, purpose, and calling as the church has not changed. And as we look down the road to our destination, or new normal, our existing purpose, vision, identity, and calling becomes that much stronger.
In January, we unfolded a vision for HMC that I think is even more relevant and important today than it was in January. We want to be, as HMC, Generations Following Jesus Together. I think the vision statement is pretty self explanatory, so I wont spend a lot of time defining it.
How we get there is where we need more help. We have four core values, or mission words that are steps in helping us be Generations Following Jesus Together. They are “Gather, Grow, Give, and Go.” I want to practically unpack those words with you over the next several weeks. In order to do that, let’s look at Acts 2:42-47
As you are turning to Acts 2, I give you this thought: the people of God have always been heading into unknown territory. They have always been wondering “Are we there yet?” We have seen it in the Exodus narrative that we have been looking at with Amos. We see it in the New Testament as the church is birthed. We see it since then all through history, and we see it now. Yet remember this, God is unchanging, and He will bring us to our destination.
The church does not yet officially exist – it is still too new. Right now it is just the informal gathering of those who considered themselves followers of Jesus, and they are likely trying to figure out where they are going. Life isn’t what it was; it has changed for them. Yet they also have no idea what is in store for them either – if it were today, they would find themselves saying “ARE WE THERE YET?”. A lot has been going on culturally and religiously in that context that turned their lives upside down. In the last couple months, Jesus has been killed and has come back to life again. He then spent 40 days appearing to many and getting His disciples ready to carry on His work here on Earth. He then goes up to Heaven. Ten days later, as His followers were gathered together, God sends His Holy Spirit down to them, they are filled by this Spirit in a way they have never before experienced, they begin to speak in languages they did not personally speak, the message of Jesus went out, and a new movement was born that was drawing in many (thousands) of new followers.
Like us, they were in new and uncharted territory. Yet there were some values that came out of this new community that was changing culture, changing the religious scene, and changing lives that have carried on through the ages and God wants to be a part of our church today.
These verses give quite a list of what the first followers were doing. We need to remember that these verses are less about being specifically prescriptive (as we are sometimes tempted to take them as a method for instant church growth), and more about being descriptive of what was happening. That being said, there are some principles here that I think we need to pay attention to; some foundational principles that the church (in general) often forgets, but needs to embrace more so, especially in these times. As we look ahead, these things will help us make it through this time of transition and will help us be stronger as we arrive.
We need to GATHER; we need each other!
Practical faith happens in community.
As we look at this list of practical things that the followers were doing, I want you to notice something specific that comes out through this whole passage: practical faith happens in community. Community was natural and foundational to practical faith in Jesus being lived out. As we look at the example of the early followers, we see that faith is a community affair that finds its expression as people of faith come together and practically live it out. We see three different examples in this passage that stress the natural value of “community togetherness” as the early followers practically lived out their faith in Jesus.
Vs 42 – Fellowship: Koinonia This is the idea of a community built around a joint share or participation in a cause, where there is intimacy, mutual contribution, and association. As the believers got together, and practically lived out the teachings of Jesus, there was a sense of identity, community, association, and participation together that was natural and engrained into those teachings, that was foundational to those teachings.
Vs 44 – They were together, and shared what they had – The believers chose to be together physically, and share with each other everything they had with those who had need (which was a teaching of Jesus – but more on that in weeks to come). While this is not a command for us to embrace communism, there is a value here we can’t ignore. Following Jesus, when lived out in community, allows us to share life and what we have with each other, it allows us to love each other the way Jesus commands.
Vs 46 – ‘together’ – Of one accord, passion, mind, heart – What united the believers wasn’t a Costco or fitness club membership. It wasn’t an all access pass to the local country club. It was a deep, life changing, heart altering, direction changing set of beliefs in and obedience to the person of Jesus Christ. As they lived out the teachings of Christ, grew closer to Him, and devoted themselves to all the things listed in verse 42 (the apostles teachings, fellowship, sharing meals, remembering communion, and prayer), they did so together, united together because of Jesus. It was in the setting of community that their public faith practically happened.
Does the Bible back this up elsewhere?
1) The Old Testament law expected it: Lev 19:18 – Contained in the Mosaic Law that the Israelites followed, passed down from God, through Moses. What does it say? Don’t bear a grudge or live in bitterness against your neighbour but love them. Practice community with your neighbour. It is expected as a natural part of your faith.
2) Jesus endorsed it: Matt 22:37-39 – When asked by an expert in the law which was the most important command in the OT Mosaic Law, Jesus summed them all up in two ideas: community with God, and community with others. Love God, love your neighbour. Community is expected as a natural part of your public faith expression.
3) We need it to reach our God-given potential: Heb 10:24-25 – The early followers, the early church wasn’t to stop meeting together. It wasn’t so that they could get people to give to an offering to pay the bills. It wasn’t so that they could compete with the other churches for the amount of people they had. It wasn’t to create a social convention or club. It was because it was understood that as we live out our faith publicly and practically, it is hard. There are days where we will want to throw in the towel and quit. We need the support of a community to encourage us on as we live out our faith, and follow Jesus in love and good deeds. Community is expected as a natural foundation of your public faith expression.
We feel like we are on a journey. We feel like we have been ripped out from all that was safe, and all that we knew, and now we are on this journey to ‘who knows where’. It is stressful, it is confusing, it is uncertain, we feel anxiety, and we want to know “are we there yet?”
First of all, find comfort! Psalm 46 says “Be still, and in that quietness from all the calamity around, you will find out who God is.” Psalm 23 (which Matt read this morning) reminds us that we have a Good Shepherd who is guiding our journey and will take care of us.
Second, isolation reminds us of who we were meant to be, and how we were meant to function as the church. It reminds us of our identity. If isolation has done one thing for us, it has reminded us that we need community, we need each other, we need to GATHER. That reality doesn’t take a break because of COVID; it just looks different.
If we want to live out our faith publicly (which is a major part of it) in the way that Jesus taught, the way that brings hope and life change to others, the way that delivers joy and comfort in times of stress and fear, we need each other. The public expression of our faith in Jesus does not have a solitary option. Jesus, through his life, death, and life again, has invited each of us to be a part of His body, all united together, and functioning as one. For us to be who He has made us to be, we need to be there for each other, we need to encourage each other, we need to be involved in the lives of each other. We need our family, our community. We don’t work right otherwise. We need to GATHER; we need each other! Practical faith happens in community.
So the challenge to you is invest in others. Be involved in our Zoom Rooms where we share life, we share our needs, we encourage each other, we pray for each other. Call someone up on the phone this week who you need to encourage or reach out to. Maybe even (all be it virtually), find someone this week that you can mentor and shape, and they can mentor and shape you. Maybe you can do a Bible study with someone these next several weeks. If you need more help with that, talk to Pastor Kristina.
Find strength, purpose, and identity in community. Maybe have a virtual coffee over skype or Facetime with people from the church you haven’t seen before. Maybe today, after this service, download the family curriculum that Pastor Amos has made and as a family practice community together as you grow in your faith together (and pastor your homes). Maybe this week, as your individual household family, find another family that you don’t know as well but you can ‘adopt’ – you can get to know them more, talk to them, pray with them and for them, share life. Here is the encouragement: a pandemic with isolation measures that could threaten to tear apart a community because we can’t physically gather could actually be an amazing opportunity to build deeper relationships, and maybe with someone you do not know.
Maybe today as you listen to me, you feel lost, on a journey with no idea where you are going, but you also feel very alone. You hear me talking about being the community, being the family, and us needing each other because that is how Jesus designed the church to function. You want to be a part of something like that, but you don’t know Jesus, and you don’t know how to be a part of a community like this.
Jesus invites you today to find Him, to open your life to Him, to let Him in. Jesus invites you today to let Him transform your life and give you a new hope, purpose, identity, and a sense of belonging. And in so doing, Jesus invites you to be a part of His body, His family, and find community with Him and us. And if this is something you want to know more about, please send me (or any of our pastors a message) on facebook, find us on our website and send us an email, reach out. We would love to tell you more.
Remember, that even in the times of uncertainty where everything looks different, our purpose and identity does not change because Jesus, who our foundation is built upon as His community, His body, His family, does not change.
Sunday, April 19, 2020; Luke 8:40-56; Pastor Kristina Dyck
Today I want to share with you a story that has been lingering on my mind about a year. Another great “upside down kingdom” story. This has been the story/passage that I keep going back to. It is a familiar story but it is full of depth that most of us do not stop and think about. I think it is particularly timely now.
This story is found in three of the four Gospels. Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43 , and Luke 8. We are going to look mostly at the account in Luke 8 today.
Jesus heals two women
40 When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they had been waiting for him. 41 A man named Jairus, who was a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet. He pleaded with Jesus to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a twelve-year-old, was dying.
As Jesus moved forward, he faced smothering crowds. 43 A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had spent her entire livelihood on doctors, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the hem of his clothes, and at once her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When everyone denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are surrounding you and pressing in on you!”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 When the woman saw that she couldn’t escape notice, she came trembling and fell before Jesus. In front of everyone, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed.
48 “Daughter, your faith has healed you,” Jesus said. “Go in peace.”
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying to Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Don’t bother the teacher any longer.”
50 When Jesus heard this, he responded, “Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting, and she will be healed.”
51 When he came to the house, he didn’t allow anyone to enter with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, “Don’t cry. She isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.”
53 They laughed at him because they knew she was dead.
54 Taking her hand, Jesus called out, “Child, get up.” 55 Her life returned and she got up at once. He directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were beside themselves with joy, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.Read full chapter
Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible
A little background:
This story takes place during Jesus’ second tour of Galilea, probably about midway through his ministry on earth. He had already done many miracles in Galilea, that is where his ministry had begun and where he was from. He was well known there.
By this point in is ministry he had traveled down to Jerusalem a few times as well and met the woman at the well in Samaria. He was well known and his reputation for valuing those that society deemed less important was well know.
On one side of this story we have an important and wealthy man. The leader of the synagogue. His twelve year old daughter is near death and he comes to Jesus seeking help for her. He cuts through the crowd, he is important so he could do that easily, and he pleads with Jesus to come and heal her.
As a parent, I can imagine the franticness of his mission to get to Jesus and to get Jesus back to his daughter. I think any parent can imagine the panic of one last hope to save your child.
I imagine Jairus dressed in expensive clothes but looking rumpled from days of fear and sitting beside his little girl’s sick bed.
He fell at Jesus’ feet, probably out of breath from having run here as fast as he could.
He begs Jesus to come heal his twelve year old daughter.
On the other side of the story we have a woman who has been dealing with twelve years of abnormal uterine bleeding. Now for those of aren’t doctors or nerds about women’s health, let’s add a layer of understanding to this. This kind of condition is a symptom of something that is going on. So while it was unpleasant in itself, it was likely caused by something that would have had other symptoms that the Gospel writers do not mention. She may have had fibroids, PCOS, endometriosis, or even cancer. It is likely that she was in pain on top of everything else and obviously weak from constant blood loss.
She had spent all of her money trying to find a cure and the result was that she had only been made worse. (Ancient near east doctors had some pretty bizarre and sketchy “remedies” for things like this so it is no wonder they made her worse. These remedies could have easily given her food poisoning or e coli.)Her condition would have meant twelve years of being unclean. Twelve years of no one touching her. Twelve years of shame. Twelve years of isolation.
This woman is at the opposite end of the social, economic, and religious spectrum from Jairus. While he is a male leader, she is a nameless woman; while he is a synagogue official, she is ritually unclean and thus excluded from the religious community; while he has a family and a large household, she must presumably live in isolation because of her condition; while he is rich, she is impoverished by payment of doctors’ fees
While Jairus was able to come right up to Jesus and ask, this woman was not able to do that. Maybe shame stopped her, or the customs of the day.
Instead of falling at Jesus’ feet and pleading as Jairus had, she sneaks up and just barely touches a tassel or hem of his clothing. She may have reached through the packed crowd for whatever part of Jesus she could just barely reach.
Her healing was instant.
“Think of it! The Mosaic Law is reversed here: rather than the Lord Jesus becoming unclean and contaminated by her, she is healed and purified by the holy power that resides in him! This is who Jesus is, he is the Holy One: the Healer.”
But the story doesn’t stop there for her. Jesus could have let her slip away into the crowd maybe thinking that magic had healed her. This was a common thought in the day. But he had more to teach her, the crowd, and us. Matthew says that Jesus turned and saw her. Luke and Mark say that Jesus asked who had touched him.
In the pressing crowd, Jesus recognized her touch. He stopped. Despite being on the way to heal a dying child, he stopped. He addressed her personally. He asked her to tell her story. He listened. He told her that it was her faith that had healed her. It wasn’t magical clothing, the power came from Jesus because of her faith.
Back to Jairus
As a woman, and one who has always been a bit passionate about injustice, I automatically side with the woman in this story. The pain and sorrow of her life, her isolation, even the culture that made her feel like she could not approach Jesus directly.
But when I stop to consider Jairus-the-dad, not Jairus-the-wealthy-priviledged guy, I am hit by the anxiety, frustration, fear, even anger that Jairus must have felt throughout this. His only child was moments from death and Jesus was asking about someone touching his clothes. Who cares?!
I think, no matter how old we are, we often tend to think of ourselves as king of the centre of the universe. The things that matter most to me are clearly the most important things in the world. Or maybe that is just me.
My children are obviously more important than some random person in a crowd. We might not like to admit this, but I think it is true. Jairus most likely felt this way. What could possibly be more important that saving the life of his only child?
As he is dealing with these feelings, someone he recognizes comes into focus. “I’m sorry Jairus. It’s too late.”
The anguish that must have struck him at those words. If Jesus had only hurried up this wouldn’t have happened.
“Jesus heard this, he responded, ‘Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting, and she will be healed.’”
Jesus calms him, reminds him to keep trusting. He promises healing. Then Jesus finally goes with him.
The house was already mourning. Of course those who loved her were already mourning. It seems as though they already had hired mourners there as well. Jesus kicked them all out only allowing her family and three of his disciples in. No faithless-rubber-neckers allowed.
They were all crying and mourning for her, but Jesus said, “Don’t cry. She isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.”
53 They laughed at him because they knew she was dead.
I don’t think this was a “haha” kind of laugh. I think this was the borderline insane laugh of someone who has lost everything and is devastated, maybe even furious with Jesus for not coming sooner.
54 Taking her hand, Jesus called out, “Child, get up.” 55 Her life returned and she got up at once.
We are told in Numbers 5 that touching dead bodies defiles a living person. But again, the holy power differential flows the other way with the Lord Jesus. He not only has authority over nature and over demons, he has authority over death!
He directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were beside themselves with joy, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
I think that before this moment, Jairus would not have been able to be happy for the woman who had been healed earlier. It is pretty hard to be happy for others when we are in the midst of trials. Honestly, my natural tendency is to be annoyed that God took away their struggle instead of mine. But when God does come through for me suddenly my eyes are open to all of the wonderful things he has done for others as well.
They were beside themselves with joy.
I think that some of Jairus’ joy came also from the sudden realization that Jesus had not only healed his own daughter but also his neighbor. The full awesomeness of God struck him at that moment and he was beside himself with joy.
There are so many cool tidbits in this story which is why I keep coming back to it. Both of these women needed Jesus and Jesus really saw them both, took time for them both, healed them both, called them both “daughter.”
One was twelve and the other had suffered for twelve years.
Both of these women were unclean, one because of her illness, one because of her death. Both of these transferred their uncleanness to Jesus and were cleansed by him. Both found hope in Jesus when there was no possible human hope left.
Now, there are a few ways to identify with this story. Maybe you feel like the woman. You feel isolated and alone. That is not uncommon in this isolating time. Maybe you have suffered for a long time and found no help. Jesus sees you. Jesus offers you hope.
Maybe you identify with Jairus. You are used to getting what you want, you have worked hard and your life is good. But now you find you have lost control. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe a loved one is sick. Whatever it is, life is suddenly turned upside down and you can’t seem to get your barrings. It seems like everyone around you is finding help and hope but you are still struggling. Jesus sees you. He has not forgotten you.
Maybe you actually identify with Jesus in this story. It seems like everyone wants something and you are exhausted. That is definitely a legitimate feeling these days. Jesus offers you rest. He is in control and although this time has brought a tremendous amount of extra work for you and many other, God offers you rest. Bring your burdens to him.
Maybe you feel like someone in the crowd, just watching the insanity all around you. Not really able to help. Not really feeling anything miraculous happening to you. Just sort of coasting by, unnoticed, maybe bored. Jesus is there for you too! If he had let the woman slip away the crowd would not have benefitted from what happened to her. He cares about you just as much as he cared about her.
No matter where you find yourself this week, Jesus calls you sons and daughters. He cares about you and the things that are going on in your life. And we do too, Feel free to contact me, or Amos, or Dave, or Lyndsay. We are here for you guys anytime you want to talk about big stuff or small stuff.
A reading of John 20:1-18 by Pastor Kristina for Easter morning.
Filmed by Mark Ducommun
Easter 2020: The Hope of the Saviour
April 12th, 2020
Have you ever really hoped for something, only to be disappointed or let down? I think we all can, can’t we? Maybe even today, some of you are feeling some disappointment or loss of hope. For weeks you have been looking forward to having that Easter dinner with family and now you can’t. Or maybe a vacation you were looking forward to was cancelled. I think we can all fill in the blanks for our own situations.
It is Easter Sunday, a day where we celebrate hope because of what Jesus did for us. But that first Easter Sunday, almost 2000 years ago, didn’t begin for everyone on a hopeful note.
- i. Introduced to two people: Cleopas, and a fellow traveller (could be his wife, could be Luke, we don’t really know).
- ii. They were ‘disciples’ of Jesus – they were not the inner 12 we regularly think about, but part of a larger group who followed Jesus as He taught.
- iii. Coming home from Jerusalem, likely from the annual, mandatory Passover celebrations. It was a 7 mile trek to a place mentioned only here, Emmaus.
- iv. Intently engaged in a deep conversation with passion about everything that just happened, the Passover celebration, Jesus’ death, and likely what the prophets said in OT regarding the Messiah.
- v. Jesus suddenly shows up and walks alongside them, listening, like a stranger who is on the periphery.
- vi. They have no idea that it is Jesus as for some reason, God kept them from recognizing Jesus. We are not completely sure why, but we can assume that God needed them to go through the coming experience to teach them an important lesson.
- i. Jesus says (paraphrased) “hey, what’s up? What are you talking about?”
- ii. It catches them off guard completely. They actually have to stop walking. They feel the heaviness and lack of hope from the weekend. It is written across their face.
- iii. They respond by saying (paraphrased) “have you been asleep all this time? Where you been at? How could you not know what we are talking about? How could you not hear?”
- iv. Jesus prompts further by asking “what things – what you talking about?”
- v. They then unload all their disappointments, their discouragement, and hopelessness, their failed expectations. To them:
- a. Jesus was a good man, prophet, miracle worker, good teacher. But He was condemned to death.
- b. He was the same guy who they hoped would rescue them from Rome (as evidenced by Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry) but was now dead.
- c. On top of that, there is news that Jesus’ body is gone. The women saw angels who said He was alive, but no body was found later. And the two aren’t satisfied. They don’t know, or believe, and are still feeling like the wind knocked out of their sails.
- i. Jesus speaks a correction: “Do you not know what has been written in the Scriptures you know so well? Don’t you understand it? Don’t you get it?”
- ii. Jesus spends the rest of the journey (likely a long time as the whole journey was 7 miles) with captive audience. He shares from the entire Hebrew Scriptures, which they likely knew well (right from the beginning – writings of Moses to the end – prophets) about who the Messiah was and what was to happen to Him. All the of the Old Testament speaks to His death and new life.
- iii. Important as He was speaking (from the writings they would have known well) about who He truly was, not just a ‘king’.
- i. As they are sitting and having a meal, Jesus breaks the bread (reminiscent of the last supper), and instantly their eyes are opened to who this stranger was. They then look around to see He is gone.
- ii. They realize that as He taught them, their hearts were burning within them. Something was resonating.
- iii. In excitement, they go back to Jerusalem 7 miles to find where the 11 were gathered. Hear that Jesus had appeared and was risen. And they backed up that news from their experience. They had just experienced the hope of the Saviour.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be Cleopas and his companion in that moment? To feel so full of despair and hopelessness, completely heavy from everything they had hoped in to come crashing down, to have their world be completely different and disappointing. Yet in a moment, a split second they had their hope, astonishment, and joy come flooding in as they see Jesus alive! As they put together the words Jesus spoke with recognizing who this stranger really was, they saw Jesus to be more than just a revolutionary leader. They saw Him to be the promised Lord and Saviour.
Important to remember that Jesus returned to them hope – but not in the way they expected or initially wanted, but in the way they needed. They didn’t need freed from Rome. Jesus offered freedom from the religious system of the day (with all of its restrictions and requirements), a real and personal relationship with God that had been restored, a message of spiritual healing and life, and a message of purpose and future in a world filled with chaos and unrest.
Picture today that you are Cleopas or his travelling companion. Where today are you feeling hopeless, discouraged, disappointed, depressed, heavy, weighed down, with the wind knocked out of your sails? What is written across your face? Where do you need the Hope of a Saviour?
The heart of the Father pursued you with love, an unconditional, all encompassing, overflowing love. Enough so that God Himself, in the person of Jesus, came down to Earth to physically die for you, and then rise to life again so that today, you can have the Hope of the Saviour. Because of Jesus, we can be invited into a personal relationship with God, where regardless of what we face, we don’t have to feel alone and hopeless. Where we can experience the love of God in a personal way that is bigger than any circumstance, pain, or failed expectation we face. Where, because of this relationship, we can experience His strength, His peace, His joy, His comfort, His presence. And we can know that whatever we are facing, because He lives, we also can live too. We can live beyond the here and now. We can live facing tomorrow, we can live facing eternity. We can know that whatever we face, we have the Hope of the Saviour who is bigger than all of it, and who promises us a life beyond this mere mortal life that is beyond compare. That is perfect, that is the way God originally designed us for and completes our story. Because He lives.
Good Friday 2020 – The Heart of The Father
Good morning, and welcome to the online Good Friday Service here at HMC. This morning as you sit around your computers, TVs, or smartphones to join in, remember that we are here to reflect and to celebrate. We come to reflect on the overwhelming, indescribable, uncontainable, never ending love of Jesus Christ that was put on display as He gave up His life for us on a Roman Cross 2000 years ago. We reflect on how that act of love changed our history. We reflect how that one love act changed our lives and continues to change our lives.
We also celebrate. We celebrate because of what Jesus Christ did 2000 years ago on The Cross. We can celebrate an unconditional love that becomes a source of hope, joy, and peace. We can celebrate an unconditional love that fixes our brokenness and brings relationship. We can celebrate an unconditional love that turns us from death to life eternal if we choose to accept and receive it. Today, we celebrate love through Christ, at the foot of the Cross.
As we sing, as we hear Scripture read, as we pray, and we take communion, lets reflect, but lets also celebrate that we can and have found love.
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (ROM 5:6-8)
This morning, I want to share with you a story of the heart of a Father for His children.
In the beginning, The Father of all living things, God, created all that we see. He created life, He created us, and gave humanity breath. In His creation He was very pleased. He had a special relationship with humanity, unlike that of any thing else in all His creation. Humanity was created in His image. The first humans, Adam and Eve, got to enjoy the perfection God had created, and live in a mutually perfectly loving, perfectly personal, and perfectly whole relationship with God.
Then something called rebellion happened. When faced with a choice of honouring their Father’s command to not eat of a certain tree that was before them that the Father knew would bring death and the brokenness of all that was perfect, Adam and Eve chose their own pride. Picking their own path instead of God’s, in rebellion to what God said, they ate of that tree.
God, The Father had to respond. Because of their rebellion and sin, no longer could they enjoy the complete perfection in which God had placed them. The garden, the life, the relationship that they were designed for was all broken. But the story doesn’t stop there. That very day, even though God had to act on their rebellion and give them a needed consequence, the heart of the Father was filled with love for His creation. We see in Genesis 3:14-19 that before the Father spoke to Adam and Eve about their rebellion, He unfolded a plan to bring redemption, healing, and restoration to everything that was broken and destroyed by their rebellion. God promised a Saviour; a Saviour who would right the wrongs and put the broken pieces back together again.
At the right time, in our brokenness and helplessness, unable to fix ourselves, Christ came for us; the Heart of the Father was put on display for all to see. Jesus, the Son of God, yet God Himself; fully man and fully God came to Earth to live a life that was pure, undamaged by all the rebellion of humanity, free from any sin Himself so that He could fulfill the promise made by the Father thousands of years prior at the garden.
Today we remember how the heart of the Father was put on display through the love driven sacrifice of Jesus for all of humanity for all of history. We see this as Jesus, out of pure love, died for those who didn’t deserve it. He died for each one of His twelve disciples, many of whom had failed Him deeply, such as when they fell asleep on Him when they should have been keeping watch in the Garden of Gethsemane not once or twice, but three times. Or when the one who had said on the evening of Jesus’ betrayal that he would never abandon Jesus would go on to deny that he even knew Jesus three times before sunrise the next morning. Or the disciple who used his position as a way to embezzle money, and who for 30 pieces of silver (the modern day equivalent of a few hundred dollars in value) would hand Jesus over to the religious leaders to be sentenced to death.
Jesus also died for the mob that would violently arrest Him, or the religious leaders who would put Jesus on trial for bogus, made up, fake charges driven by a sense of revenge and anger. Jesus died for Herod, whose only interest in Jesus that day was to see this ‘magic man’ and mock Him. Jesus died for the soldiers who would mock Him, spit on Him, hit him, and pound a crown of thorns into His forehead. Jesus died for the soldiers who would almost beat the life right out of Him, to the point of being beaten beyond recognition. Jesus died for Pilate, the one who would sentence Him to death by crucifixion. He died for the criminal Barabbas who was released but should have been in Jesus’ place instead. He died for the ones who pounded each nail into His hands and feet to hang Him on that Cross. He died for the ones who would divide up his clothing to the highest bidder right in front of Him as He hung to die. He died for the ones who jeered at Him as He breathed His last in agony.
The whole time, Jesus could have stopped this. The whole time He could have walked away. But He didn’t. Rather than walking away, He prayed “Father Your will, not mine.” And as He hung on that Cross, He prayed that these people who did such horrible and unjust things would be forgiven for their ignorance. The heart of the Father was that His creation, His people who were broken by rebellion would be restored, redeemed to what they were made to be and restored to the relationship with Him that they were designed to have. He knew that the only way this could happen was for Him to come down in human form, Jesus Christ, and give up His life.
When Jesus said ‘It is finished’, breathed His last and died, He did so for all of humanity for all of history. He did it for all those who didn’t deserve it that day. He died for you, and He died for me.
The heart of the Father beat with so much love for all of us, for you, for me, for all of humanity that while we were all sinners, while we were all broken and had no idea that we needed help and likely didn’t want it either, He died for us.
In a moment, we are going to celebrate communion together. I will again read Romans 5:6-8. And then I am going to invite you to take a couple moments, as I play some music, to have silence in your home, to pray, to be thankful for the heart of the Father that pursued us to the point of Jesus willingly giving up His life out of love for us. Reflect on how His heart of love has changed you, and what it means for you today to be pursued by His love. And then serve each other the communion pieces together in your home, and hold on to them until we take them together in a few minutes.
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (ROM 5:6-8)
Sunday, April 5, 2020 – U18 SUNDAY
Exodus 25/Mark 11
Welcome to Hanover Missionary Church this morning. I am Pastor Amos, the pastor of children, youth, and family. This is actually a U18 Sunday and it’s Palm Sunday and we’re streaming from my house.
We’re going to start this Sunday off with a Palm Sunday reading from the scriptures. This is coming from the gospel of Matthew and it’s titled The Royal Welcome.
The Royal Welcome
21 1-3 When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”
4-5 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:
Tell Zion’s daughter,“Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mountedOn a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”
6-9 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”
11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”
That’s our prayerful scripture reading this morning to start off our Palm Sunday/U18 Sunday service. Now, this is a little bit different. This is weird. If four weeks ago or five weeks ago you’d told me I would be live streaming Sunday service from my house with a selfie stick, I probably would have laughed at you. But, this is where we are in the Covid era and I am really excited to be doing something different in these strange times.
What we’re going to do may feel naturally unnatural, but what we’re going to do, is I’m going to invite you into our home to have church with us this Sunday morning. Today, I’m going to invited into a different form of worship in the form of eating. My family is just sitting down for a Palm Sunday pancake breakfast so we’re going to head inside and continue on from there.[Kitchen]
We’re having some pancakes, some whipped cream, some coffee.
So, church in the home. That’s where we are this morning. We’re in our kitchen. Church in the home really isn’t that strange historically. Now, it’s odd to us and i feel that this is very very weird that this is our Sunday service, but it’s an amazing opportunity to be together in a new way. But for the historical church this really isn’t all that strange. The early church met in homes. And even in the Jewish tradition, the Jews would go to the temple and the synagogue, it was really the family and the parents responsibility to raise their children up in the law of Moses, so the synagogue was really a secondary thing to normal life in the home with parents and kids and grandparents. And so the church in the home is really naturally unnatural.
So as I was preparing for this service, I couldn’t help but think of my own church experience. I grew up in the church and we were really involved: programs and retreats and camps and Hawaiian nights and youth. It’s where I learned to play the drums, where I learned to play the piano, it’s where I met my lovely wife. And church was just a normal rhythm for our daily life. But if I were honest with you, a lot of my church formation didn’t actually happen within the church building, it happened in something just like this: a kitchen full of people talking, eating, hovering around the island. I think of my own parents, all the countless conversations I had about God with my dad and my mom around the kitchen sink, around the kitchen table. All the times I had conversations with friends, theological discussions and debates. There were all kinds of times in my life, in my own home, where I met Jesus. I even committed my life to Jesus as a grade one in my families living room on my favourite chair which my parents still have to this day. Church in the home was interesting. It even spilled outside of my my own home into friend’s houses and mentor’s houses. I have all these memories of sitting in other people’s kitchens and other people’s houses, talking and learning and forming around Jesus.
Now, there’s one kitchen in particular that I remember with real distinction and that was my Baba’s kitchen. My Baba is my Ukrainian grandmother. I recently got to spend some time with her. She had a stroke in Florida a couple months ago, and so before the pandemic hit, she returned and I went down to visit her and ended up having a great conversation with her. She’s in her 90s, still sharp as a tack. We had a wonderful conversation about the ways she had formed me as a child, and particularly her kitchen. When Baba and Gigi would invite us over as kids to spend time at their farm – I lived in the town and had six other siblings, so the chance to spend time one-on-one time with someone who doted on me hand and foot was a very wonderful opportunity – my favourite thing to do was sit in her kitchen. Now, I got to go to the bush, to play with a hatchet, to build a fort, I went running around the forest with my Gigi, I got to wear mismatched clothes, and I ate really well; but in the morning, my Baba and Gigi would wake up really early and I would sneak into the kitchen and sit in the rocking chair but the wood stove and rock as I listened to my Baba sing and tell stories and tell how God had worked in her life through all these years of having seven of her own children, including my father, stories of provision and the ways the spirit had guided her in her life, and the stories of the Bible. They were incredibly shaping and formational. Baba’s kitchen was a place where I met Jesus regularly.
And talking to my dad, I’d kind of forgotten there was a long lineage of in-home church in my own family. When I was 16, my family and I went out to Alberta and met my Baba and Gigi there, where my Baba was born and had grown up. Her father had immigrated from Ukraine and was given a hundred acre lot that he had to clear. But while he was there, he met Jesus. His life was turned around, and he ended up starting a church in his own home, a little hut where my Baba was actually born. And when the Ukrainian community got established enough, he actually led the building charge for this tiny little Ukrainian church in northern Alberta. And we actually got to go visit there when I was 16 with my Baba.
So, church in the home, while strange and unnatural to us, and the historic unfolding of God’s story through time and history and the Christian church and the Jewish model, it’s actually not that uncommon even though it feel strange and weird.[Upstairs Studio]
This is probably my favourite spot in the house, this is my studio spot. This is where I do a lot of my work and my drawing.
This is a strange time for all of us and I can’t help but feel a strange connection to the ancient Israelites as we are in this time of being disconnected and lost. It really reminds me of the story of the Exodus. We’ve been going through that story as part of the bedtime story and that just happens to be where we were for the midweek meal before the pandemic hit and we’re continuing on with those which are streaming live at 7:30 on Wednesday nights.
The story of the Israelites is an interesting one. I just want you to pause and imagine that the Red Sea has just folded over itself and Pharaoh’s army has been wiped out and the treat of returning to Egypt through force is over. The Exodus has really begun and the Israelites are standing on the shore of the wilderness. Imagine how that would have felt for them. They had lost everything that was familiar to them. Even though they were slaves and their life was terrible, I think we take for granted the fact that every kind of system they had in place, every kind of routine they had, all the familiarity and similarity of their lives had changed in an instant and they couldn’t go back. Their government, their food source, even their work – even though it was slavery – they did have things to do. It was all gone.
Now if we read the temperature of them, we know this is a strange place for them to be because it didn’t take very long for them to start complaining. They complained about how much food they had, how much water they had, and they actually stated saying they’d rather die in Egypt than die in the wilderness. They were more upset about where they were than where they had been.
And I think it’s because they were scared. I think they were terrified of being in that unknown space, of being in that wild. And I can’t help but feel a similar kind of feeling right now: how strange and weird and uncomfortable and uncertain and that seems to be growing daily.
The Israelites were not alone and they weren’t without a plan. See, God was actually drawing them out of Egypt, drawing them into the wilderness to embed His story and His plan and His image on them. In that moment they were a continuation of a promise God had given Abraham to pass on to Isaac and Jacob. So they’re actually being stripped away from what they’re familiar with to find something new in the wild.
So God choses Moses, Moses leads them through and a pillar of cloud and fire leads them day and night, a three month journey to the foot of Mount Siani where God shows up.
At the bedtime story last week we told the story of God’s thunder and lightening being his theophany. He speaks to them. He gives them the Ten Commandments, these ten new ways of living and being as the first starter of the formation of His image on these people in the wild. And the people are terrified. They had never seen anything like that. Though they knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they knew He was the God of One, they didn’t have much to rely on besides the stories of their patriarchs. They’d been surrounded by the Egyptian gods and the Egyptian god structures, so they’d seen idols, and been told god had presented himself in the form of Pharaoh – that’s what they were told to believe – and these idols the Egyptians would have worshiped around the temples: that is what they would have known. The Israelites would have never seen such a display of God’s power before, of His actually presence coming down on the mountain in the thunderous overwhelming way.
They didn’t like it. They said, ‘Moses, you talk to God. We’re too afraid. You speak for us.’ So Moses ends up going back up the mountain and God reveals a further plan for His people in that moment.
You can read that for yourself in Exodus 25. It continues on. It starts with the ten laws of living and it spills into the priests and the altar and the incense and the lamp stand. There are two critical parts to this revelation that God gives to Moses and it’s actually the formation and the building of the Ark of the Covenant and the building of the Tabernacle.
The Ark of the Covenant was a chest that was to house the presence and spirit of God and would lead the Israelites through the wilderness. And the Tabernacle was a dwelling place where they would set up the Ark every time they moved. And then the instructions were the Israelites were to camp around the Tabernacle. So God was saying, ‘I’m going to dwell in your camp. Your entire civilization will be built around me. Wherever I tell you to go, you will go. Wherever I move, you will move. I will lead you and you will live your live around Me.’
This is a beautiful thing that had happened. The Israelites had gone from having nothing to, within a few months, having this new way of approaching and relating to God. So that’s what they did: they built the ark, the built the Tabernacle, they had these systems of sacrifices that God had instructed, and that’s essentially how the Israelites lived for thousands of years.
In some ways, where I relate to the story, is that a lot of our daily and weekly rhythms have been totally lost. Our way of life, the way we relate to our government, our jobs, our economy, the way we relate to each other, being distanced from each other and isolated – it’s strange, it’s sad, it’s uncertain, at times we all feel lonely, we don’t really know where we’re going. I can’t help but feel like those Israelites when they first entered the wilderness. Where’s this all going? How is this all going to be resolved?
What I find really encouraging is that, just like the Israelites, we’re not alone and the plan has already been put into place. The plan is already in action.
This morning is Palm Sunday. It is a day to celebrate the arrival of the King. I’m going to turn to Mark. I really love the Gospel of Mark and I’m going to read it again. This is Mark 11. This is the triumphant entry of King Jesus.
4-7 They went and found a colt tied to a door at the street corner and untied it. Some of those standing there said, “What are you doing untying that colt?” The disciples replied exactly as Jesus had instructed them, and the people let them alone. They brought the colt to Jesus, spread their coats on it, and he mounted.
8-10 The people gave him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out,
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in highest heaven!
11 He entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in.
My friends, it is Palm Sunday. We are in a wilderness, but we are not alone and the plan is already in action. The King has already come. He’s already marched in, He’s already brought God with Him.
And that day was symbolic as Jesus was brought into the Temple there’s convergence of this mosaic of law and God’s Son meeting together.
Christ has given us a new way of living, a new way of approaching God, and it’s actually through His spirit. And what’s actually really exciting about being alive in this time and having Jesus in our life is that the same God that manifested on Mount Siani with all the thunder and the lightning and the power and the thickness of the air and the smoke and the fire; that same God can indwell in you. And if you are a follower of Jesus and His spirit is in you, He is already in you. That same God lives in you. What’s also amazing about that is that it’s not just an individualistic thing. That same God who lives in all of us is actually Tabernacling with us as families: that wherever we are, God’s presence is. We don’t need an Ark of the Covenant, we don’t need a Tabernacle for God to dwell in or a tent. We don’t need to set Him up and move Him around. Wherever we go, He is with us. Wherever we are, His presence is there. Whoever we’re with, the presence of God is there. Which means, wherever you are, it’s actually church. Whether that’s in a building, or in your home, or down at the park you’re not allowed to go to anymore, wherever you are, the spirit of God is with you and He’s written His law on our hearts. His spirit is the one to convict and shape and give vision and lead. And I find that really encouraging. I find that incredibly exciting.
I know we’re going to get back together again someday. We’re going to meet at Hanover Missionary and we’ll have a big old celebration. We’ll have songs and music and good coffee, and I’m promising you ice cream and cake. We will get back together again, but the church isn’t the building, the church is you. The King has already come, His plan is already in place. He’s already filling your home with His love and presence. He’s with you wherever you are.
That’s my encouragement to you this Palm Sunday: the King has come!
“Restore” Romans 5:12-19 March 29, 2020
I am glad that God looks with love and pride on His creation, us, who were dented up, rusted out, and a worthless image of what we were created to be, and that He decided that we were worth restoring to who He made us to be.
Verse 12 introduces us to Adam.
A. We lost our innocence (Vs 12, 16, 18)
B. We gave up spiritual life (Vs 12, 15, 17)
Verses 14 and 15 introduce us to Jesus
A. Mercy and forgiveness (Vs 15)
B. Be set right / justified (Vs 16, 19)
C. Spiritual life (Vs 17, 18)
Jesus wants to restore you to who God made you to be.
Find the curriculum Pastor Dave spoke about on our REIMAGINE page
I can remember my first car; I bought it in September 2000. It only cost me $200. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because my first car was a big, ugly looking boat of a car; a 1983 Buick LeSabre. It was one of those old cars that those of us who grew up in the 80’s remember that our grandparents used to drive. Big cars that felt like they were floating as they drove. I lived out in BC at the time, but this car had spent the first several years of life in Ontario. Imagine what a car would look like after driving on our salt covered winter roads for several years without underbody protection. It was rusty. The rust was even getting rust! There were many places where the rust had eaten through spots in the panels. The gas tank was even rusted in a spot (so I only ever filled it half full).
If the rust wasn’t bad enough on its own, the car was also quite dented. At least two of the doors, and maybe a fender panel or two were dented in. But I was so proud of it. This was my first car. When everyone else poked fun at my dented rust bucket that shouldn’t have been on the road, I saw the potential that this car had to become a thing of beauty again. Over the next year that I drove it, I poured time, effort, and money into fixing it up. I replaced rusted out parts. I pulled out and filled dents. I sanded out rust, and in some cases rebuilt panels that were eaten away by the rust. I repainted the car. I replaced the rusted-out gas tank. I Resealed the leaking windshield. I was convinced I would restore it to what it was intended to be.
Within the year, the engine began the slow road to death. Aside from a brand-new engine, there was nothing else I could do. I had to park that car once and for all. But the journey of trying to restore something that was beaten up, rusted out, and worthless in the eyes of most was something I took pride in.
Today, we are looking at Romans 5:12-19. I am glad that God looks with love and pride on His creation, us, who were dented up, rusted out, and a worthless image of what we were created to be, and that He decided that we were worth restoring to who He made us to be.
Let’s read Romans 5:12-19
Verse 12 introduces us to Adam
We are introduced first to a character named Adam, the first human God created, the first human to walk the face of the Earth. This connection to Adam needs to be understood in the context of Genesis 2-3. Maybe this is something you can read this week when you have time.
Adam and his wife Eve enjoyed perfection. They walked on Earth as God’s caretakers of His perfect creation. They lived in a utopian bliss where there was no sickness, hardship of any kind, death. The garden was for their enjoyment. They had a relationship with God where He would walk in the garden, and they could enjoy His personal presence in a deeply personal way that was unhindered from any disobedience whatsoever. All was at peace. All was well. All was perfect.
Yet, something happened. Genesis 3 reads how Eve, and then Adam took a bite from the forbidden fruit that God told them not to touch, the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When Adam ate, he blatantly disobeyed God, and suddenly his eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil. Sin, defined as missing the mark, was introduced to all of creation. Romans 5:12 says that through that one act of sin by Adam, sin and the resulting death was introduced to all of creation. Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone has sinned, and as a result, missed the mark of God’s perfect and undamaged glory and honour.
We have become like my 1983 Buick that, rather then be the brand new, unscratched, undamaged, not worn vehicle that it was right out of the assembly line, was full of dents, eaten away at by rust, and a worthless representation of what it was created to be. So how do we see this played out in our lives?
A. We lost our innocence (Vs 12, 16, 18)
Prior to Adam rebelling, all of creation had no knowledge of what rebellion, or sin was. We were undamaged by sin. Yet as verses 12, 16, and 18 say, Adam’s sin spreads to everyone. No longer could Adam enjoy the perfect, undamaged creation of God, because Adam was now damaged. He could never look at life the same, or his relationship with God the same as now, rebellion and disobedience had become a part of his active vocabulary. Because of Adam, our eyes are now open to the very same sin and rebellion. We live with the same damage as Adam. As a result of that sin, verses 16 and 18 say that we are no longer innocent but are subject to judgement and sentencing as one who is guilty.
B. We gave up spiritual life (Vs 12, 15, 17)
The three listed verses all say the same thing: death came to everyone. Yes, there is the truth that now, everyone and everything would face an eventual physical death, but there is so much more to it than that. While we are yet still alive, we all face something called “living death.” We may be alive physically, but spiritually, in our relationship towards God, there is a separation or death that happened. Just as Adam was then sent out of the garden with his wife because of the sin, not to live in the personal presence of God with a pure, un-scratched, undamaged relationship for eternity, we too have seen that life eaten away from us like rust eats away at metal. It is gone. While we are alive physically, we have exchanged that eternity with God in His presence for a life of isolation and spiritual death.
But don’t sit in this place of despair long. Don’t look at the hopeless, dented, rusted out, damaged, and worthless image of the life that was destroyed by sin. Why? Because, with love and pride, God looks at you and sees a creation worth restoring. He wants to fill the dents, remove the rust, fix the broken parts, smooth out the rough spots, and restore us to like new. He wants to give us back the life we were intended to have so we can be the people He intends us to be. This is why….
Verses 14 and 15 introduce us to Jesus
The story doesn’t end with a trip to the scrap yard. It ends with restoring what was damaged and destroyed. It ends with Jesus making all things new again. As we come closer to Easter, we celebrate the fact that Jesus came to Earth to die a criminal’s death on a cross, the execution tool of the Roman Empire. But as we know with the Easter Story, Jesus didn’t stay dead, but three days later came back to life again. Through this death and new life, Jesus accomplished for us the following:
A. Mercy and Forgiveness (Vs 15)
Verse 15 tells us that there is a big difference between Adam’s sin, and God’s gracious gift that came through what Jesus did. While Adam’s sin brought death to all, God’s gift through Jesus brings forgiveness and mercy. This means that even though we are guilty of disobedience, rebellion, and missing the mark of the perfection God designed us for, through the gift of God that comes through what Jesus did, we now are subject to mercy and forgiveness.
This means that we can:
B. Be set right / justified (Vs 16, 19)
What does it say here? Though we are guilty of many sins, even though we carry the damage of disobedience and rebellion in our lives, even though the dents and the rust holes are there for all to see, the gift of God that comes through Jesus sets us right before God. That gift takes care of those dents, rust holes, and damage marks in our lives. We are like new. This means that instead of facing spiritual death because of our sin, we now face:
C. Spiritual life (Vs 17, 18)
Adam’s sin brings death, but the gift of God that comes through Jesus brings the opposite, spiritual life. John 1:12 says that this spiritual life is available to all who receive Him and believe in His name. All who do this become children of God with all the rights and privileges therein, regardless of the past failures and mistakes. Regardless of how damaged, dented, or destroyed you were by sin. Regardless of how worthless you think you are, or others say you are.
As I wrap up, this is the encouragement I leave you today. No matter what you are facing today, no matter how life has beaten you down, no matter the depth of your own sin and rebellion, Jesus wants to restore you to who God made you to be. He wants to pull out all the dents from you crashing into the walls of rebellion. He wants to clean and cut out all the places where the rust of sin has eaten away at your life. He wants to fix the places where leaking into you is self sufficiency, independence, disbelief, and a lack of trust. All those places where you have been damaged, Jesus wants to restore into the image of who you were created to be: a child of God, created by Him to enjoy a perfect relationship forever in His presence.
Do you want to be restored?
Romans 5:12-19 New Living Translation (NLT)
Adam and Christ Contrasted
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.