It’s Still HOLY WEEK

This is certainly NOT how Christians would have envisioned honouring Good Friday and celebrating Easter Sunday.  For sure it is NOT how our congregation imagined Easter week-end.  It’s no exaggeration to say that Easter has been the highlight of our worship calendar for the last ten years because we vacate our church building and inhabit the Living Arts Centre in the heart of our city for one of our most treasured worship experiences.  We normally hold three services on a Sunday morning out of necessity, but on Easter Sunday morning for the last ten years we have been one church celebrating the Resurrection in the middle of Mississauga.  The moment I realized that wasn’t going to happen this year, to say nothing of the fact that we are not together at all, I sat on the edge of my bed, let out a deep sigh, and wept. 

As I worked through the sadness that Christians everywhere are feeling about their Easter plans it dawned on me “it’s still HOLY WEEK!”  The cross and the resurrection are not limited to our traditions, programs and buildings.   In fact, this may be the best Easter week-end since the first one!  If we take the time to go deeper in our understanding of the cross and the resurrection.

I’m going to look at this Friday as a chance to experience the “isolation and loneliness” that Jesus did on that “good Friday” perhaps in a way I’ve not been able before now.  On a recent trip to Israel our group squeezed into the “dungeon” beneath what is believed to be the home of Caiaphas, where Jesus was held on the night before His trial.  I read Psalm 88 to our little flock.  Why don’t you take this Good Friday to be alone with God and your thoughts to reflect on what it means to share in His suffering of rejection, isolation and loneliness? 

To read Psalm 88 now just click on the following link:

Oh!! I have to say it!  I’m going to miss the collective worship of our church family on Easter Sunday morning.   Without the great Easter celebrations that we have come to love and enjoy, let’s ask the Lord to release the hope of Easter in the sanctuary of our hearts in unprecedented ways.  After all, that has been His target all along.  He didn’t plan Easter to be a big program for us to spectate.  He planned to invade the human heart with a new and living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

Most Christian visitors to Israel want the “classic” picture of themselves walking out of the Garden Tomb because of the rich symbolism it holds.  Jesus died, was buried, but three days later He walked out of the grave, conquering death and giving eternal life to all who come to Him by faith. As Jesus Himself said, “Because I live, you also will live.”  (John 14:19)  

No amount of isolation, anxiety or uncertainty in our world can change our hope in Christ.  This year will be very different than any of us expected.  But it’s still “holy week.”  By which I mean to say, our hope and peace in Jesus are firmly intact.  So, I pray that you will be able to cherish every moment of reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus, perhaps as never before.

Please check out our service times posted on our church website and plan to join us for a virtual communion service on Friday morning and a unique Easter service on Sunday.

Do You Mind if I Boast?

Boasting in Faith

I want to “boast” in three things that are building my faith during these trying days.  For those tempted to think that the Bible only warns about the dangers of “boasting” (and it does!) please remember that there are plenty of references to boasting in the good gifts of God, knowing full well that every perfect gift comes from above, from Him.  I challenge you to check your Bible concordance and follow this theme in the New Testament.
1.  Do you mind if I boast about you, my church family?

I’m doing so with all the authority of the Bible and church history behind me.  Listen to the “boasting”  of the apostle Paul,   “But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavoured the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”  (1Thess. 2:17-20)

Simply put, YOU have already shown yourself to be the caring, giving and faithful family of God that I have experienced for the last 14 years.  As many of you know, we created an online resource for people to both ask and offer to help wherever needed.  I teared up as I reviewed that list this morning.  The resource is new, so the list isn’t populated as I know it will be, but it does already represent the sacrificial and selfless kind of church family that would make any pastor’s heart explode.  I’m so thankful for you.  My faith is bolstered by you, our City Centre church family.

2.  Do you mind if I boast about your church staff?

Since the coronavirus outbreak we start the week with a Monday morning ZOOM staff meeting.  Staff meetings are always a good time for me to see first-hand how blessed we are as a church family to have these hardworking, dedicated and loving people guiding our ministry efforts.  Yesterday’s meeting was incredibly encouraging for me as pastor.  The staff are spiritually minded, passionate and hard working.  They are creating new ways to reach out to you to carry on their mission of “making disciples”.   This forced isolation has highlighted that they are one of our greatest resources.  The building is empty but they are hard at work keeping the wheels of ministry turning for the glory of God. 

And yes, Paul boasted in both the churches of Christ and his fellow workers in 2 Corinthians 8:23-24 (ESV) “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.  So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.”

3. Do you mind if I boast in the Gospel?

Above all, remember Galatians 6:14 (ESV) “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

During these trying times Christians are discovering that nothing holds a person up like the Gospel.  The world is rocking with instability. “Men’s hearts are failing them because of fear.”  But the Gospel ground on which we stand is steady, strong and stable as never before.  Our trust in Christ gives us peace.  We have a strong hope that does not disappoint. As my daughter said to me recently “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have hope.”  She’s right.  We have been “born again into a living hope” (1Peter 1).  Christians face the same burdens as everyone else EXCEPT that we have hope beyond this present crisis.  We know the Great Shepherd Himself is watching over us, protecting us and strengthening us. 

JUST TO ENCOURAGE YOU today.  Remember that you are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” in your church family, all of whom are praying for one another.  Remember that we, your City Centre Church family ministry team, are watching over you by prayer and practical ministry.  BUT ABOVE ALL lean into the Gospel as never before.  The ground on which you faith stands is solid rock. 

SHALOM loved ones!

Pastor Deric