January 19, 2022

God’s Abundant Love and Spiritual Gifts 16-01-2022

16th January 2022 (Second Sunday after the Epiphany) Title: God’s Abundant Love and Spiritual Gifts (Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1–11 & John 2:1–11)

By Heeyoung Lim

In what ways does God continue to bring abundance into the world today? In what ways does Jesus’ life and ministry reveal God’s abundance to us?

In John 2:1–11, Jesus’ ministry gains public awareness at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. There was His mother, Mary who seems to already know and trust in the works of Jesus. When the wine gave out, and the host got in trouble, Mary called on Jesus to help. She trusts Jesus’ ability to respond to this need and leads others to experience such trust too.

She tells the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” This story emerges as a strong witness to Mary’s faith and trust, and the servants experience Jesus’ ability and work when they obey His words. When Jesus said, “Fill the jars with water”, servants “filled to the brim.” Those servants were obedient to the word of the Lord and showed faithful obedience. Through the turning of the water into wine, Jesus is revealed. This miracle speaks of God bringing abundance into follower’s obedience and activities. God’s glory is revealed, and the disciples believe in Jesus.

What is truly amazing in this story is the abundance of wine Jesus offers at the wedding party, and this story emerges as a strong witness to Mary’s faith and trust. Jesus provides the best wine at the end of the feast. Wedding celebrations in Bible times lasted several days with much food, drink, music, and fellowship, and hospitality was foremost. Jesus provided all participants with the best hospitality when the wine was gone.

This would have been unheard of at that time. It is a reversal of worldly expectations. The steward is confused about the origin of the wine, but the servants who obeyed Jesus’ word and had drawn the water know the work of Jesus and experience His miracle.

An impossible miracle happened, and the servants who obeyed the Lord knew that Jesus had done it. Jesus’ life and ministry reveal God’s abundance to us too. When was the time when we experienced God’s

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abundance in our life? It can be all different, but we should always remember and give thanks for the abundant love and grace that God has bestowed upon us. As an expression of gratitude, we should never overlook an opportunity for service, ministry, and work to others through our lives.

Jesus clearly understood and obeyed that his purpose on earth was to bring glory to the Father and to save people. Weddings or family celebrations can be opportunities for families to glorify God and witness their faith. In celebrations or gatherings, Jesus must be the focus of our lives. Weddings and gatherings create opportunities for service to God, and the master of the banquet and gatherings is Jesus. I believe that we can glorify God in our lives through our faith and obedience. On our special and precious days, I hope that we will all be able to take our Lord as the master and glorify God. Let us think about how Jesus has revealed His glory in us. May we glorify God in all aspects of our lives, including public worship and public parties.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul touched spiritual gifts in the church and the value of the gifts. He explained the role of the gifts of the Spirit with the value of diverse gifts in the worship of God. The Corinthians’ pagan background made them susceptible to being misled by supernatural manifestations.

In this situation, Paul mentioned identifying the Spirit and the unity and diversity of the Spirit’s manifestations. The gifts of the Spirit are manifold, and each is important in the worship of God and the ministry of the church. There are different kinds of gifts, service, and working. Yet, each variety is associated with the same Spirit, the same Lord, or the same God.

We do receive spiritual gifts as God sees fit according to His grace. Spiritual gifts are primarily for the common good and the purpose of building up faith communities. The spiritual states of our fellow believers affect us personally because we are members of one another. We are all lovely church family and spiritual friends. May we be spiritual friends, family, and teachers to each other. If we do not use the spiritual gifts God has given us for the common good of the community, those precious gifts can be misused.

We need to look for ways to use our gifts in the service of the church and encourage others to do so as well. We must not take spiritual pride or

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feel superior in our spiritual gifts. On the other hand, we must not feel inferior if our spiritual gifts are not as impressive as the gifts of others.

There are noticeable or inconspicuous spiritual gifts, but nothing is more important or less important. May we actively pursue spiritual gifts rather than earthly desires. As God’s people, we live with abundant love and spiritual gifts that stand in contrast to the world’s realities. Although some kinds of spiritual gifts, services, and works go unnoticed in human eyes, God sees and pleases them, and it benefits the church.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are varieties of service, but the same Lord. There are many kinds of working, but the same God at work. (4-6) All spiritual gifts are all important to the church because they come from the Holy Spirit. Each one in the church has received different gifts, not because of differences in qualifications or circumstances, but according to only the standard the Spirit determines.

Paul listed nine manifestations of spiritual gifts: Message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. All gifts are given for the common good and may indicate that this manifestation of the Spirit takes different forms at different times. Today’s words offer a refreshing reminder that faith, while personal, is never private, and that the gift each person has been given is meant to be shared. Faith and service need to be individual as well as communal.

As in verse 11, all spiritual gifts are activated by one and the same Spirit. In the media and digital environment, many younger generations communicate through numerous social media accounts such as Tiktok, Tweeter, Instagram, and Facebook, etc. but sometimes they deactivate their accounts or indicate their status by displaying slow, rest, or busy. For many reasons, our lives and services sometimes seem to have been deactivated, and slow, rest, or busy conditions continue from time to time. As a Christian, may our lives and services be activated again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Today’s text tells us that all spiritual gifts are activated by the Holy Spirit.

The Season after the Epiphany is a good time to reflect upon the ways that God’s abundant love and Spirit are at work among us. We are lovely church family and spiritual friends in God’s unending love. Every Christian is a necessary, beneficial member of the church, and all members are precious because every single person is Lord’s sheep.

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We remember that Jesus turned water into wine and gave abundance out of nothing. Jesus will give us the best wine, the best gift of the Lord, even at a place that seems to be the last of the feast or the second half of our life. We can hope even where there seems to be none, for we are guided by the Holy Spirit in God’s abundant love. The Bible tells us today, “Do whatever Jesus tells us for the common good with our spiritual gifts in God’s abundant love. May we glorify God in all aspects of our lives through our faith and obeying Jesus’ words.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

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God Is with Us 09-01-2022

9th January 2022 (Baptism of Jesus)

Title: God Is with Us
(Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1–7 & Luke 3:15-17, 21-22)

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

Isaiah indicates promises of redemption for Israel in a creative way. Today’s words are God’s words of salvation for people who were in exile. The passage begins with a reference to creation and immediately moves to language of redemption. 

Although we often associate God the creator with power, sovereignty, and providence, and God the saviour with love, grace, and mercy. On the other hand, creation is a deeply loving act of God, redemption is an event of great sovereign power as well. The creating and saving acts of God are intimately linked in God’s relationship with creation. God recreates the world that is apart from God and restores the broken harmony that results from sin. Creation and redemption flow from the gracious essence of God. 

The God who had created Israel would redeem her from captivity. What is captivating us? What are we captive to? God listed the most dangerous barriers they would face on their journey and promised to overcome them. One of these was walking through fire without being burned. In accordance with today’s words, even passing through water and fire cannot hurt the people, rather, these elements were used by God to purify people and their powers in those times. Verse 2 tells us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” Even living in exile, Israel had no reason to be afraid. God was ready to do whatever was necessary to bring all His people from their places of exile. Even powerful nations of the day serve God’s redemptive purpose. 

God had placed His name on them because they were His sons and daughters. Isaiah assures that no matter what – fire or flood, wind or storm, relationship distress or broken heart, war or famine, COVID-19 or omicron, illness or difficulties, depression or frustration – God is with us.

Israel could count on the LORD, their Saviour who had delivered Israel from Egypt. As in Isaiah 43:4, God said to His people “You are mine; you are precious in my sight and honoured and I love you” God plans to redeem and protect them because He loves them. We are God’s Precious children because God loves us. We have no reasons for fear because God is with us and will be with us forever. 

It is easy to feel alone and fear in life’s inevitable difficult times, but we have no reason to be afraid because God is with us. God created, formed, and rescued us, and today’s words are given to people who face difficulties. God will recreate and restore us as He created and restored people for His glory. May we all live for the glory of God and experience the restoration God provides. 

Where do we belong to? What makes us worthy? God’s gracious love. We often look for the answers in the wrong places. However, God speaks to us, “I am the LORD your God, your Saviour, do not be afraid, and you are mine.” We are God’s precious being. In verse 7, He continues to speak to us, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” All creation and all people are the result of God’s love. God’s saving acts are meant for all people. May we all sit at a table in the kingdom of God. Today’s text has words of comfort and hope. God’s words of comfort and restoration are greater than people’s situations. May we find answers, comfort, and hope from God’s words. 

This passage is paired with Luke’s description of Jesus’ baptism in terms of becoming God’s children. In Luke 3, John the Baptist knew his role and baptized with water, seeking repentance and cleansing from sin. He knew that he was weak and insignificant in face of the coming One, Messiah who was mightier and more powerful. One greater than John is coming with the baptism of the Spirit and fire to bring judgment and salvation to the world. Christ’s ministry was to bring salvation and the Holy Spirit to people who believe in Jesus and to bring judgment on those who refused to repent and believe in Him.

In the waters of baptism, God seals God’s love for us, no matter what we might have done and what might happen. In the waters of our baptism, God gives evidence of what God says to Jesus in Luke 3:22. The voice from heaven blesses “You are my child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ baptism through John the Baptist, God draws near and rejoices in him. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is marked by his baptism. As in verse 21, when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. At the place where Jesus was baptized, the voice of God was heard, and the Holy Spirit was with Him. Today’s readings remind us to listen for God in words of hope and encouragement, and in the Holy Spirit’s work in our communities. May each individual and our faith community please God through abiding in our Lord, in God’s word, and in the Holy Spirit in 2022.

Where do we hear God’s voice in our life? In the Holy Spirit, God’s voice speaks to us in prayer, in worship, and in loving actions, and in all who thirst for justice. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and renews us. The comforting and hopeful words of Isaiah 43 are a passage we need to return to over and over, just as we need to be reminded of our baptisms. God’s words and the love of Christ take time to be believed and absorbed. 

May we trust and hope in the God who is with us and will protect us, even in the midst of the floods of chaos caused by our mistakes and irresponsibility as both individuals and communities. We are God’s children, listening and responding in the light of God’s grace. We are those who belong to God, baptized by water and by fire. We are a family who are in the glow of God’s glory. 

Luke carefully notes that Jesus prays after he is baptized. For Luke the act of prayer will be the most important feature of the baptism and will clearly indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus and the believer. May we pray for an awareness and experience of the Holy Spirit guiding our life. Our prayers are significant ministries for our church and the kingdom of God. A church that prays and a church that doesn’t pray are completely different. I pray that 2022 will be a year in which the ministry of prayer blossoms from every single church member. May we serve for the Lord and carry out our ministries including the act of prayer by seeking what God has called us to be and do.

Faithfulness in ministry is so precious, but it does not protect us from earthly hurt, suffering, and injustice. However, to depend upon God in prayer for the strength to live and to love, and to hear God’s words as the source of our calling and purpose in life are joys of life. These are the blessings of our life together in Christ as the church. May you encounter God who restores us amongst prayer, life, and service and become those who glorify God.

God speaks to us today, “You are my son, my daughter.” “You are Beloved.” “I am well pleased with you.” We are all still having some kinds of difficulties, but we have no reason to be afraid because God is with us. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

Spiritual Blessings in Christ 02-01-2022

2nd January 2022 (Second Sunday after Christmas)

Title: Spiritual Blessings in Christ

(Scripture Reading: Isaiah 60:1-3 & Ephesians 1:3 -14)

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

Happy New Year! Today is the second Sunday after Christmas, and 6th January is Epiphany. It is more than celebrating the wise ones’ visit to the child Jesus. The light of God’s glory invites each one of us on a pilgrimage road. How was the journey of the wise ones a pilgrimage? How might we plan a day-long or a year-long pilgrimage? May we plan and travel a day-long or a year-long pilgrimage on our faith journey, either alone or in community, as wise men traveled a great distance to discover what the “star sign” might reveal and to meet a newborn king, Jesus. The wise men understood the newborn child as a divine gift to be worshiped and honoured. The special star light led the wise ones to discover the birth of a new hope, a gift to the world, and the light of the world.

Isaiah 60: 1-3 invites us to the light of God’s glory and God’s restoration. God’s people had returned to their city and had tried to rebuild it and the temple, but something was missing. Their hopes and dreams had not been brought to reality, and despair and frustration were deepened. The prophet’s words reassured his people and called them to attention. God was going to act for them. The darkness of despair and defeat would cover the earth, but God would shine his glory upon them, so that the light of his glory would attract the nations to Jerusalem.

God will glorify his people by bringing them back to His house of worship. That light described in Isaiah 60 will attract people from far and near, and God will restore His people to righteous living and glorious worship. God no longer shows anger but compassion to his people and lets Jerusalem to receive foreign delegations who have come to worship Him. God shows that He is their Saviour and Redeemer. Righteousness and peace will replace violence and destruction. God wants to bring peace to His people so that all sorrow will vanish. He wants His people to be a light to all peoples of the world. God maintains sovereign control over all the nations of the earth. His people will in the light of God’s glory and be filled with rejoicing and praising in accordance with God’s word. 

Today’s text at the start of this New Year begins with a blessing “Blessed be God.” In Ephesians 1: 3-14, God the Father is to be praised because God is God, and He has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have been chosen and adopted by God to be His spiritual children. God’s love and word make us holy and blameless in his sight. His decision to do salvation for us grew out of God’s grace which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. God the Son redeemed us, forgave us of our sins, enlightened us to know His will, and has given us an eternal inheritance. Because we have believed in and received Jesus as our Saviour, all our sins are forgiven in Him. It means our sin is paid for by the death of Christ. In addition, God the Spirit sealed us, made us secure in Christ, and led to our redemption. Because of all God has done for us, we can see ourselves as someone very significant. God graciously bestows grace on us so that we would praise God’s grace-filled glory. May we appreciate the fact that we belong to the family of God and praise God’s glorious grace.  

In the Bible, God predestines or chooses us in Christ, but He does not choose those who will not be saved. That is, the door of salvation is open for everyone, and God waits for everyone’s salvation. The promises God made were already extended to a larger population and are still opened to those who are not believers. Some verses seem to tell us about human freedom and responsibility, and we can see many kinds of refusals against faith or salvation. 

However, we have received the blessing of being chosen by God, adopted by Him as his spiritual children, claimed as God’s possession, and marked by the Holy Spirit. May we be grateful that God has forgiven our sin and given us spiritual blessings. As Christians and Jesus’ disciples, we can pray for people who are believers or not believers because God hears us and waits for them. We do not know what will be happening this year, but may we live and rest in God’s love, which is expressed in His offer of salvation. May we humbly ready to be used by God, allowing Him to accomplish His will through us as the wise men responded to the king with great joy and devotion.

In 2022, I hope we can tell someone else the experience we had when God became our personal Saviour and Redeemer. May we seize opportunities to share our faith and love in Christ with others, exercising wisdom in reaching out toward those who are not believers.

God wants us to arise and shine in our family, communities, and the world. He wants His people to be a light to all people of the world. May we share the light of Christ in the world. I believe our light will be shined in Christ more and more in 2022. People everywhere seek illumination or a light to see, but may we be the necessary light that can lead towards Jesus, and our light shine forth in the world so that more people can be the children of God. 

I hope we can allow God’s glory to shine in our lives and others will come to God’s house. God assures His people of a safe and peaceful journey, protects them from harm in unexpected ways, and restores them from their suffering and darkness. What are the roads God is encouraging you to travel this year? What is our star on our pilgrimage road that indicates Jesus? It can be all different, but may our path be filled with spiritual blessings in Christ, and our faith growth will be added on the promise of salvation.

We are still in uncertainty and some kinds of darkness, but I pray our heart shall be filled with joy, our vision shall be clear in Christ, and our whole being will be shining. May we place our trust in God’s love and care and serve the Lord with joy, even during the dark and difficult hours. However, the light is not for us, it is for our Lord. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises to us. In 2022, may we lift our eyes and look up to Jesus more and more and appreciate our spiritual blessings in Christ. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

Growing in God’s Word and Wisdom 26-12-2021

26th December 2021 (First Sunday after Christmas)

Title: Growing in God’s Word and Wisdom

(Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12–17 & Luke 2:41-52)

                                                                                    By Heeyoung Lim

Yesterday was Christmas day, but now is the first day of Season after Christmas among 12 days until Epiphany. When we look back a year or COVID related two years, what did we experience? Some people refuse to look back on their journey and give themselves credit for the gains they have made. 

In today’s story, told only by Luke, we hear about Jesus around the age of 12. In Luke 2:41–52, Jesus’ family becomes disconnected from their son and overwhelmed with all the worry and fear that brings. When they eventually found Jesus in the temple, they were amazed because Jesus related to God and enjoyed the time of sharing God’s word. His mother said, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!” Jesus answered, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” Disconnection often brings anxiety and depression into our lives, but we need a time of solitude before God to truly connect with God. We all have experienced anxiety, depression, and loneliness amidst many difficulties that have continued throughout the year, but even these disconnection times will be a way to deepen our relationship with God and enrich our relationships with people.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ parents did not look back on the way home. They were busy looking ahead and walking for a long time without Jesus. 12-year-old Jesus’ earthly growth was preparing him for heavenly mission. At the temple he showed he was more than ready. While his parents absorbed in preparations for the journey, they did not notice the missing child in the crowd. When people feel that they have a shared responsibility, they sometimes fail to take care of someone or something, and they pass the responsibility on to others. What was their priority? What is our priority? 

Sometimes you and I lose Jesus just like Mary and Joseph. We get so busy in our daily routine that we never give him a thought. Then, one day we realize that he is gone out of our lives. Would you know what we need to do when that happens? We need to go back to the place we left Him. That is where we will find Jesus, right there waiting for us. Today, the last Sunday of 2021, may we look back on whether we are walking with Jesus in our hard and busy daily life.

Jesus is the promised Messiah and Saviour who brings salvation to all people, and His role as Saviour was proclaimed before his birth. Jesus’ salvation, however, does not come automatically. People retain the freedom to accept or reject him. Jesus’ salvation was accomplished because a human baby or boy faithfully accomplished the growth tasks of a child to enter a heavenly mission. Jesus became wise, and he grew strong. God was pleased with him and so were the people. (52) In what ways have you grown in God’s word and wisdom this year?

Colossians 3:12–17 speaks of God’s chosen holy and beloved those who live in harmony with God and with each other. Today’s text introduces rules for holy living such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience and leads us to be thankful in our lives. (12) Attributes of real connection with God seem to be these five virtues. How does practicing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience help you feel closer to God? How does it bring you joy? Verse 12 invites us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are all loved by God, and God wants us to love each other and grow in faith. Verse 14 tells us, “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” May we put on love over all virtues.

May we live each day in obedience so that God can use us when His time comes. I hope we can tell others the good news that God has shared with us more in 2022. Verse15 tells us, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” We are called to be thankful.  

Each one of us is part of the body of Christ, and we were chosen to live together in peace. I believe that the peace that comes from Christ control our thoughts. Let us obey the message about Christ completely fill our lives, while we use all our wisdom given by God. With thankful hearts, may we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God and share blessings and encouragements more each other next year. 

When life seems overwhelming, or when sorrow seeks to overtake us, how are we able to find joy within that? During this Christmas season, we are invited to join in God’s word to praise God and rest in the joy of God’s presence in the birth of Emmanuel, God with us. Especially, finding Jesus and seeking God’s will would be our joy. May we walk with Jesus even when we are busy or focus on something.  

We are called to model ourselves on Jesus. Modelling ourselves on Jesus does not mean we aim for to be perfect and then despair and beat ourselves up for failing to reach that standard. Jesus started from a baby weak and helpless on the earth. We follow Jesus on the journey of growth. Our journey has its ups and downs, its obstacles and its catchups. Sometimes we pick up speed, and sometimes we slump by the side of the road, feeling unable to go on. But Jesus slumped by the side of the road three times on the way to the cross too. Our times of frustration and fear do not mean that we’ve taken the wrong turn and are lost forever, because we believe resurrection and restoration. Modelling Jesus or following Jesus represents our deep joy and growth in faith.

Jesus was grounded in God’s word and grown in the faith community when he was young. Jesus was in the Father’s house. May we grow in obedience, relationships, and faith. Paul urges us: “Keep putting on God’s compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Putting them on is part of the process of growing up. Day by day like Jesus we grow. We are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. We are to clothe ourselves with God’s love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May we all share the love of God more and more next year. May our Leighmoor Church will become a precious God’s instrument that can help our faith growth of all generation. In 2022, may we keep on modelling ourselves on Jesus and day by day grow like Him. For then we will be faithfully following Him, and the miracle of Christmas will be taking place within us!

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

Christ the Lord. The True Light of the World 25-12-2021

25th December 2021 (Christmas Day)

Title: Christ the Lord, The True Light of the World

(Scripture Reading: John1:1-14)

                                                                                    By Heeyoung Lim

We give thanks for the light of hope, peace, joy, and love. Our hope in Christ shines on. The peace of Christ lights our way. His peace is not weak, it is strong and unafraid. His Joy is persistent and unpredictable. The Joy of Christ brightens our lives in so many ways. The love of Christ comforts and challenges. Today we lit the Christ candle as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The darkness is working so hard in the world, but Christ’s light is working harder through us. Jesus is the true light of the World. 

Christmas Day is a celebration of the light of Christ coming into our world. Today we sing of the light which breaks open the darkness and lights up the whole world. For the light of Christ gives us hope in the dark times in our lives. Jesus reveals life and light. Eternal life and heavenly light come to those who trust Jesus and are born again from above. (6)

John introduces Jesus to his readers as the Word of God, the Son of God, and the Lamb of God. John 1 tells us that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In other words, God himself came to be one of us. He came to live with us. He came to provide us the gift of becoming children of God.

May we appreciate Jesus lives among us with full of glory and grace and truth. The Incarnated Word as the mediator of revelation and reconciliation lives among us. The child born for us will rule with endless peace and justice for everyone. In today’s text, we find the purpose of the coming of Christ.

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” is one of the well-known songs of Christmas. In its first three verses it tells the story of Christ’s birth with triumphant joy. And in the fourth verse, the deep mystery is described as in John1. We sing with hope, for we live in dark times. This is verse 7 we sang at the beginning, “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing” this lyric reminds us that God himself has come to be one of us.

When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the mystery that God has become one of us so that he could save us from our sins and death, giving us new life as the children of God. And as the song’s refrain invites us to sing, “O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!” May we sing and adore Jesus as our Lord in our daily life. We are living totally different life after we believe in Jesus. All of this was possible because Jesus came to this earth for us. His incarnation made us to born again. 

Light is defined by the shadows that surround it. Every parent knows that a newborn infant will face both happiness and difficulties as the child grows up. When God send Jesus to us, He knew the Son’s future suffering on the cross. Incarnation does not only include happiness, but also God’s heart-breaking sorrow. However, Christmas day is a day of hope and salvation.

Today we celebrate the birth of a baby born in a manger. We join our voices with the company of angels, shepherds, and wise men. Today we declare this baby to be the light of the world, the true light that enlightens everyone, the light that the darkness cannot overcome.

We have struggled with darkness in our world for a long time because we hunger for Christ’s light. This is the light which promises the salvation of the world. And if we can live in the light, then we will find ourselves as children of God. And if we follow the light, then we will walk with Jesus as his disciples. As followers of Jesus, we keep holding up the light of Christ and the hope that brings. And if we refuse to let the darkness take over, then the light will grow brighter, and the darkness will move away a bit further.

We need to shine our light of faith and hope, no matter how small. It is amazing how even a little bit of light can really light up the darkness. Even threats and force cannot stop the people who sing songs of freedom, hoping for the light to come. Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel. For all who receive Jesus, believing in Him as the true light of the world, He gives “the right to become children of God.” May we all be brightening the dark world with the light of Christ as children of God and disciples of Jesus. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

Rejoice in the Lord 12-12-2021

12th December 2021 (Advent 3)

Title: Rejoice in the Lord 

(Scripture Reading: Zephaniah 3:14–20 & Philippians 4:4–7)

                                                                                      By Heeyoung Lim

In Zephaniah 1:4, God had fought against Judah and now He will save and defend them. Believers do not need to fear because the LORD, the King of Israel, is with them. 3:14–20 rejoices in the hope of Jerusalem’s restoration through the One who will gather Israel. Zephaniah is calling the people of Jerusalem “daughter” and renewing his love for them (14, 17). How does God bring us home or destination in this season of preparation and waiting? 

Today’s text includes God’s exaltation of the suffering and the outcast. God’s presence protects and rejoices. God shows us the fulfillment of God’s promises in the journey of Advent through prophets. Christ’s presence and blessing will bring inexpressible joy and absolute security to His people in accordance with God’s words. As the joy candle is lit, may we give thanks for our gladness, remember all who are in sorrow, and care for them.

As a result of social injustice, the oppressed are fearful, while the powerful are corrupt and reject divine correction. In Zephaniah 3, the ways in which God will deal with the oppressors have been described for those who have suffered at their unjust hands: “I will deal with all your oppressors and save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (3:19)

God’s promises are being achieved for protecting and lifting the lowly, the suffering, and the oppressed. We find an unfolding of God’s promises in many places throughout the biblical narratives such as the prophetic word, the coming of Jesus, and the kingdom of God.

The prophetic word through Zephaniah affirms that some of God’s purposes are to make injustice right, to heal the shame that results from oppression. In the exaltation of the humble and lowly, Zephaniah finds both a divine rejection of the abuses of power and a divine promise to protect the weak and the outcast.

In verse 15 and 17, the prophet affirms that God is with the people and will continue to be in them. God’s presence protects His people from harm and God rejoices with them. The people will live without fear, trusting that God saves them from disaster and all kinds of attack. However, God’s presence does more than remove threats. A theologian Jennifer said, “His presence among the people is animating, in that God rejoices with them, renews them, and exults over them.” I believe that God frees and strengthens us by being present among us and God’s presence heals and leads us to lean into God’s promises. In dwelling among the people, God makes real the promised future of peace and joy. This is a hopeful message that will encourage the faithful on this Third Sunday of Advent.

As the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus nears, we are challenged to remember God’s living promise to protect and exalt the lowly. This is the time in which the prophetic word, the coming of the Messiah, and the shape of the kingdom of God are derived and embodied. It is also the place in which the character of God is revealed.

Biblical thought and the tendency of obeying God’s word understands hope as the expectation of a good future which rests on God’s promise. A good future itself is not our ultimate goal, but we can look to Jesus as our hope and expect even in the dark times and difficult trials. May we praise the Lord for the promise of our glorious future with Christ.

However, when we are in the middle of sorrow, despair, and suffering, we often do not recognize the work of God. Why can we not live in joy? When we forget the gladness of salvation and God’s unconditional love, we will be living without joy. What are we doing where it seems there is no better place? How can we deal with dark times? How can we help suffering families and grieving people? 

In these complicated circumstances, Philippians 4 invites us to be joyful in the Lord. Gospel joy is always shared joy. When Paul calls on the church to rejoice, in those times, Christians were being hunted, persecuted, and killed in Rome. During persecution and fear, Paul simply points to the promise and recalls the peace of God that passes all understanding. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4-7) 

In 4:4–7 Paul powerfully exhorts his Philippian friends to rejoice. Happiness from contemporary social discourse is something that is pursued, and it is tied up in the pursuit, but rejoicing in the Lord comes even in the face of trials and suffering. As in verse 5, may our gentleness or Christlikeness be known to everyone. 

In accordance with these Bible verses, we can rejoice in the Lord and this word is a command. Joy Brings Patience, and prayer is the answer to anxiety, but our joy cannot be complete without peace. Paul’s advice to his readers to counter the anxiety of their lives with prayer is not just a simple alternative designed to hide or avoid the fear and uncertainty of their daily existence. This is a call to take those anxieties to God in prayer and allow God to reform us. 

And joy Brings Peace. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the active pursuit of a right relationship with God. It is a peace that may pass our understanding but, in God’s reign, can be blessedly reached. Joy in the Christ-aided direction is a joy that can withstand even the dark struggles of Advent! May we reconcile our broken relationships and trust God even in our greatest worry.

Why can we not live in peace? Peace which passes all understanding is of God. It comes to us when we need it most and, with no other options, yield ourselves to God. I believe that we can understand peace through praising God who passes all understanding and welcoming Jesus who comes to us. The peace of God comes from prayer involving both asking God for earthly needs and thanking God for his presence. May we rejoice in the Lord, pray in all things, and keep our mind on positive thoughts in Christ, and as we do, God’s peace will be ours.

Real joy comes from knowing that God loves us no matter what. We cannot expect for us to always be happy, but we can remember that God’s promises to love us in good times and bad times is continued. That news is giving us joy, and God’s peace is much bigger than we can understand or imagine. His peace takes care of us, and that is real joy! We can write down “Today’s Joys” and “Today’s Thanks” in our daily lives. We can also invite others to share the joy they are experiencing. May we understand or accept all the different feelings people have and help people find real joy through any pain they may be feeling.

Today’s good news is a promise of restoration to the right relationships. The promise is not based on our own strength, it is based on who we are as God’s children. When we are in the right relationship with one another and with God then God will be pleased with us. May God’s presence free us from fear and move us to rejoice. May we look beyond the punishment to the restoration which is key to God’s relationship with God’s people. God will restore us, and we will rejoice in the Lord. God tells us that we do not rejoice because we have something to rejoice, but if we rejoice in the Lord, that joy will bring us restoration and peace. I believe that even weary worshipers will be transformed into those who rejoice in the Lord.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

Prepare the Way of the Lord! 05-12-2021

5th December 2021 (Advent 2)

Title: Prepare the Way of the Lord!

(Scripture Reading: Luke 3:1-6; Philippians 1: 3-11)

                                                                                      By Heeyoung Lim

We usually clean our house every time we invite a guest, but Advent is a time to purify ourselves and await the coming of the Lord. Advent offers the church the opportunity to remind of Christ’s coming and prepare in faith. At home people are cleaning, getting out their Christmas decorations, purchasing gifts, hosting, and attending parties, and simply getting ready for Christmas. However, John demands that we get ready for Jesus. Advent is a time to prepare to welcome Jesus and not simply our invited Christmas guests. 

God’s salvation is available for every person, not just a chosen few. God’s invitation for salvation reaches out both men and women, poor and rich, Gentiles and Jews. This Advent Sunday is a great time for us to be reminded of that. A key theological theme in Luke is that God’s invitation toward salvation is for all people. In Luke 3 John the Baptist prepares the way for the coming of the Messiah by calling on people to repent from their sins. Forgiveness of sins comes only through repentance that involves a change of lifestyle, not just a momentary feeling or statement. 

Today’s text invites us to confess our sins, repent, and ask God for forgiveness. Repentance is sometimes accompanied by discomfort and heart-breaking moments, but it is a time of being cared for by the word of the Lord in our relationship with God, and it is a time of joy and peace that the Lord has given us. We can ask God to show us the changes repentance should bring in our daily life. May we change our life in the ways God shows us through words, prayers, and praises.

God sent the message to John, not in Rome, not in Jerusalem, but out in the wilderness. John prepared for his ministry and proclaimed his message in the wilderness. It is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah 40:3–5 was a word to the exiles in Babylon and it brought comfort to the people of Israel who were in their time of oppression. The oppressed and the least will be comforted with God’s rescue because God had not forgotten them and would not neglect them. Isaiah called all people to prepare for the Lord by making crooked paths straight, lifting up valleys, and making rough places plain.

Luke uses Isaiah’s words to show the continuity between the ministries of John and of Jesus: John’s coming was not only predicted, but his message was the good news, for his message of repentance was the one that prepares the way for the Lord. John’s challenge is to repent and prepare. True repentance means to change one’s mind, turn around, reorient oneself. Luke 3 calls all people to turn to God, to seek God’s forgiveness, and to prepare the way of the Lord. How to prepare the way for the Lord? I believe that we can prepare the way for the Lord through being peacemaker and doing true repentance. 

In addition, as in Isaiah 40, the way for the Lord would be prepared by making crooked paths straight, lifting up valleys, and making rough places plain. All of these can be connected to making peace. This week we live in the prophetic message that makes twisted paths straight, lifts valleys, and makes rough places plain to prepare for the Lord.

God is consistent, sticks to his purposes, fulfills his word, and then brings new fulfillment for new generations and times. For John’s generation, salvation came in the similar setting as for the exiles who were in the wilderness. However, it came in a new way. People did not have to cross the dry desert, they had to cross the line of self-centred religious pride. Even now, God allows and leads us to cross our hurdles of our faith and life. The appearance of the wilderness and the things we need to overcome through repentance are constantly changing, but the fact that the truth is proclaimed in the wilderness and that we are living in preparation for the coming of the Lord does not change.

In Luke 3:1–6 John the Baptist implores those gathered people to remove any obstacles that are hindering openness to the renewed ways of peace and justice that God has promised to reveal through the child to come. John was the messenger of change and prepared the way for the Lord. 

In Philippians 1, Paul expressed his gratitude to God every time he remembers the church. God brings grace and peace to his church, and those are possible only from our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Bill Lawrence, a theologian, once said, “Happiness is based on happenings, but joy comes from relationships.” A relationship with Christ is necessary to achieve fruit in the Christian life. The Philippian Christians had supported his efforts and participated in the gospel since they had trusted Christ as their Saviour during Paul’s ministries. The partnership through active participation in the gospel caused Paul’s joy. (5) Being partners in the gospel of Christ will bring joy in our lives. Especially, love is a primary characteristic of Christlikeness, and God is the witness of Paul’s love for Philippians. (8) 

Paul expressed his love Jesus showed, prayed for love and faith growth of Philippians, and continued to pray for discernment of what is best. (10) Christian love must be rooted in wisdom from God’s Word if we are to love both God and people in greater ways. We are to base our decisions on Scripture so that the best way is selected. When these are observed in our lives, we can be pure and blameless. As last Sunday’s message, being pure or blameless does not mean perfection or sinlessness. Paul prayed that these Christians would develop a genuine lifestyle without hypocrisy before God and people.

In Philippians1, Paul reflects the hope for purity, blamelessness, and righteousness and assures that we share in God’s grace and participate in the gospel. God who started His work in our lives will finish it. We are confident of what God has already done and know that God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion. As believers, we are to grow in the Christian life becoming more like Christ each day. Spiritual growth should continue in committed believers until Christ returns to the earth. I believe all of this can be achieved through our repentance, love, faith growth, and participation in the gospel. May we change our lives in the ways God shows us.

We are held in God’s heart. God’s reign is a “now” experience, but it is also a “not yet” hope. As we live toward God’s reign in experience and hope, the glory and praise belong not to us but to God since God is at work in us. The fruit of righteousness is Christian Character that glorifies God. We do not yet fully walk in the way of peace, however, when God shapes and refines us, we can act confidently as God’s people and live by the gospel as Jesus’ disciples. May we deliver God’s word and the light of hope and peace to people in need. May we be filled with fellowship, love, and the fruits of righteousness in Christ.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

In the Light of Christ’s Coming 28-11-2021

28th November 2021 (Advent1)

Title: In the Light of Christ’s Coming  

(Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36)

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

Children Time & Advent Greetings 

Paul showed his great joy at seeing progress and strength in the lives of those he loved. Although Paul was thrilled with the strength of the Thessalonians’ faith, he prayed throughout the day and night fervently. Everything is up to the all-knowing and all-powerful God, but Paul was not passive and wanted God’s divine intervention. He asked for God to step in and make possible a return trip to this Thessalonian church to supply what is lacking in their faith. Spiritual progress is always to be commended, but it is never to be considered complete. 

Love, gratitude, and other virtues spring from the heart, it is not from just following rules. Paul’s prayer was that the believers’ hearts would be strengthened. Faith is not about temporary once-off matter, it is related to lasting change that comes from our hearts. However, there will be no longer growth and development in our faith and life unless the heart is firmly established. 

Faithful obedience to Christ is often misunderstood by those outside the faith, but in these circumstances, warm encouragement from each other is a source of strength in our relationships and in our lives. As the great proof of the Christ-life in us, love must always be on the increase. (12) It was to convey the love of God to other believers or non-believers. The love of God through us needs to extend to all, even our enemies. Our Christian relationships will be characterized by love and care for the good of others. May we care about other’s faith and pray for one another as Paul did.

We were in very unstable COVID related situations for a long time, and we had to go through unexpected difficulties. May we find the way to overcome existing difficulties through renewal of heart and growth of faith even in this transition period. Short-term change can arise from changing habits or willingness, but long-term change begins with the heart and faith that the Lord has given us. The reason our hearts need to be strengthened is to be blameless and holy in the presence of our God. (13) But how can we be blameless before God on the day of judgment?

With God’s grace, we are to lean on the strength of Christ to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received”. (Eph. 4:1) May we seek to make righteous decisions in Christ and try to be holy before God. I hope we can deal with our sins immediately through repentance, confession, and transformation whenever those enter our heart.  With this additional grace, we will stand blameless before our Lord, now and when Jesus comes in all his glory. May we be blameless and holy in the presence of our God when Christ returns.

What are you waiting for everyday? I expect and wait that we will be grown or transformed in faith and life through renewal in Christ. Now we are waiting for the birth and return of Christ at the same time in Advent. In this season of Advent, may we concentrate on Jesus first and seek the kingdom of God.

Our faith can be expressed as a daily commitment to believe Jesus, no matter what happens to us. It is not about a certain moment or the end, it is about growth or fullness. May we lean on God more daily, even though pain and temptations are regular components in our lives. I believe that God helps us grow in His holiness and love. May our lives be filled with joy, gratitude, and a sense of belonging to the kingdom of God until when we die, or Jesus returns. 

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus becomes more specific about the heavenly signs that lead up to the end times. (Luke 21:25) Sun, moon, and stars can be warnings that represent the ends. Such signs will fill the earth with fear and a sense of being trapped because there would be no place to escape. (25) Jesus said, if you follow the two sinful ways of life, you will find yourself in a trap. We should not think we can escape the second coming and its judgment. It comes on the whole earth. Everyone is involved and no one escapes. (35)

The heavenly signs will come before the end and cause people to swoon in fear. Jesus said, they will have no source to trust and no reason for hope. (26) This will bring greater fear to those who are unprepared, but not for you who are prepared in faith. (27) His imminent arrival will terrify the inhabitants of the world, but the redemption on a worldwide scale will be at hand for the faithful. 

How will we react when this takes place? Jesus tells us, “Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (28) In full glory, the Redeemer will be coming to judge and rule the earth. I believe that we can stand up straight and lift our head high without fear because Jesus will save us and give us our rewards.

Jesus’ emphasis is not on knowledge but on action. We need to pray, stay alert, and ask God for strength to escape the persecutions, wars, and destruction rather than staying in spiritual stagnation. Christ is coming again and has given us the signs that ought to make us pray and get ready for his coming to establish his kingdom. (38) I believe and pray that we will stand before Christ as He judges the world, and we will receive the reward coming to His faithful ones who maintain their faith, trust, and testimony through all the hard signs.

Only God knows when Jesus returns, but may we prepare to see the signs and know the kingdom of God is coming to us in all its fullness. You will see the full power and glory of Jesus when Jesus returns, and God’s full glory will be revealed to the earth in Jesus. Our Christ has redeemed our world through His death, and he led us into a loving family with the name of Leighmoor who live and love in God’s beautiful faith community with great joy. 

No matter what happens, Jesus loves us, and his living words continue to speak to and transform us. Though the signs of the end times may involve the destruction of heaven and earth, Jesus’ words will not pass away but find fulfillment. (32-33) According to a theologian, Kathy, “the good news of Advent is not simply that Christ is coming, but that His coming means we can hope, despite many things falling apart in our lives and the world around us. Just as the leaves on the fig tree offer hope in late winter that summer is coming again, so God’s word, in Jesus, promises us new life.”

There may be unexpected events and storms in our lives, but we wait with eager expectation for the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of God. What is our trap on the road of faith journey? Life is full of difficulties, pain, despair, and situations which test our strength and faith. We often cannot see beyond the moment, behind the scenes, and beside uncertainty. However, in the light of Jesus’ coming, desperate expectation invites us to hope unseen places where God is working and leads us to pray on earth and stand firm in God’s authority through the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit and the transformation through God’s Word. May we act with courage, grace, and gratitude in the hope of Christ’ coming. Jesus is our hope. I hope we can participate in God’s working places in the light of Jesus’ coming. May our Christ give hope to the world’s hopeless through our faith and life. And I pray that God will give you strength and protection for now and the last days. May we be alert to what is happening and be prepared to stand before our Lord as true believers and followers in the light of Christ’ coming. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials) 

Reign of Christ 21-11-2021

21st November 2021
(Christ the King Sunday)
Title: Reign of Christ
(Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:4 – 8; John 18: 33 – 37)
By Heeyoung Lim
Grace and peace to you! Today is Christ the King Sunday or Reign of Christ Sunday. It brings us full circle in the liturgical year. Next week, we will begin again in Advent, preparing for the birth of the Christ child. Today, our texts show us the circle of hope in which our faith is grounded, and our lives transformed. It is about God’s covenant, Christ’s reign, and the Spirit’s abiding presence.
The Book of Revelation begins and ends with grace (1 & 22). The greetings in 1:4 bestowing grace and peace from the God ” who is and who was and who is to come” are connected to the circle of hope in Christ. “Grace and peace” had become a standard Christian greeting by the time John wrote. Grace is the great privilege of the Christian life and peace was the great privilege of the Old Testament age (Num. 6:26), in Hebrew, shalom. Christians share in all the blessings God has to offer. Grace and peace are privileges God extends to all believers.
In the book of Revelation, “Lord Jesus” is more mentioned instead of “Jesus Christ”. Revelation shows the fact that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth and his sovereign role as King. This was written during the reign of the emperor Domitian. Domitian had instituted a decree that he be addressed as “Lord and God.” Those who refused suffered persecution or death. Christians in those times faced an extraordinary crisis.
The book of Revelation highlights the promissory message it gives and offers hope and encouragement, especially to suffering people. The real authority over their lives is God, revealed in Christ, not earthly kings. Jesus is worthy of all praise because of who he is and what he has done. In today’s text, Jesus is the Alpha and Omega who is the First and the Last. He is the Living One, the firstborn from the dead, the one alive forever, the faithful witness, and the one who holds the keys of death.
Regarding the reign of Christ, Jesus freed us from our sins, made us to be a kingdom and priests and he loves us. His second coming will be glorious and public, because the Lord God Almighty will make it happen. The Almighty One – who is, and who was, and who is to come – encircles us in hope before and beyond all time. His power is seen in the title the Almighty, the one whom none can resist. What truth maintains and shapes your daily living? How does our faith community express its hope in God’s eternal truth both individually and collectively?
Power and authority belong to Christ. Christ’ power, exercised and embodied in love and freedom, is contrasted with the oppressive power confronted by the community of this book. Especially, in verse 6, the verb love is a form that could be translated “keeps on loving.” The verb love is not a past recollection of what had been done on the cross. It is not restricted to the promise of hope that will someday be fulfilled. Christ’s love is continued in our lives. The crises and problems that affected us do not define us. Christ makes us as “kingdom” and as “priests” even in our difficulties as in the expressions of Revelation.
Jesus is King over the kingdom of God, and we can believe that Christ will come again. The public, glorious return of Jesus Christ is the theme of Revelation. We do not know when Jesus will return, but the second coming of Christ will be glorious and public rather than lowly and private, and it would not be hidden, it can be seen in public.
In today’s Gospel reading, Pilate, the imperial governor of Judea, could not imagine this beaten man was the king of the Jews. When Jesus is standing before Pilate, Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” But this is not his real question. The real question is, “What is the truth?” Jesus has come to testify to the truth, so Pilate asks again, “So you are a king?” But through the conversation, Pilate gets one answer, “My kingdom is not from here.”
Earthly kingdoms find their source with sinful humanity, but Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. When we live in his spiritual kingdom of truth rather than worldly kingdom, we recognise the lordship of the King over the lives of his people. Jesus said, “everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Once again Jesus set truth as the dividing standard for right and wrong, but the truth was not all he cared about.
In John 18:38-40, Pilate declared Jesus’ innocent: I find no basis for a charge against him. Nevertheless, to satisfy the Jews, he let them select a prisoner of choice for release at the Passover. Whereby the sinner, Barabbas, which means “son of the father” was released, and Jesus, Son of the heavenly Father, went to death row.
In this chapter we see religious people twisted by hate. Pilate characterized this trial as a religious bickering among these Jews whom he was authorized to control. He tried to get at the truth about Jesus, but on a limited level. He needed to know the truth that Jesus was a completely different being who has genuine authority, but he was just confused and wanted to be rid of religious worries as quickly as possible.
However, Jesus was in control of all events related to his death and resurrection. Christ is, was, and always will be not just a king, but “ruler of the kings of earth,” to use the title from Revelation. Today’s text is model for the faithful witness of the early Christians and Christians today. May we never be caught ourselves at the temptation of Jesus’ enemies. I hope we can remember that all the events surrounding the death of Christ were prophesied in the Old Testament and achieved. May we show that we are committed to truth by obeying Jesus’ words.
The question I have been asked so many times in Australia was “Where are you from?” It can be a great conversation starter. I answered that I am from Seoul, South Korea whenever I have been asked about that. We are all from different kinds of cultures, regions, or countries, but we can be one in Christ because we are God’s people and Christ is our king.
If we are asked now, where are we from, how could we answer? We could say, as followers of Jesus Christ, “We live in a different place, a kingdom not from here.” It is important that we are living here doing our best on the earth, but I hope we could also confess “We are living in reign of Christ together”
We live in God’s kingdom which is not from here, a kingdom of grace and peace where Christ rules our new lives. We seek to live in God’s kingdom where God’s love, peace, and justice reign. We seek to live with innocence and integrity, humility and hope, grace and gratitude, faith, and forgiveness, widening the circle of our lives, for Jesus is not from here.  May we seek to live in the kingdom of God always and praise Christ for who He is and all that He has done. I pray that our faith community will be filled with divine blessings, warm greetings, and praises to Jesus.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Justice and Joy in God’s Promise 14-11-2021

141h November 2021 Pentecost 25
(Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost)
Title: Justice and Joy in God’s Promise
(Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 1:4-20 & 2:1-10)
By Heeyoung Lim

1 Samuel 1:4-20 describes the profound suffering and faithful persistence that Hannah embodies. Hannah expresses the abundant hope and thankfulness to the LORD by her song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The gratitude and praise come from her experience of despair, but it represents God’s power and faithfulness.
Hannah experienced the insistent trial and is harassed by Elkanah’s second wife for being barren. Peninnah gave Hannah no peace by irritating her. Despite Elkanah’s support, she refuses her portion of the sacrifice and weeps as he offers her words of consolation (7–8). Even her husband’s love cannot remove Hannah’s humiliation or change her state. (20)
Hannah was deeply troubled and was praying out of her great anguish and grief. Especially on a trip to the temple, Hannah prayed silently for a son and was praying in her heart. The only thing she poured out was her soul to the LORD. She prayed and promised to God. If God would give her a son, she would give him to the LORD for all the days of his life.
When Eli saw Hannah was praying, he thought she was drunk, but when she defended herself and explained, he listened and affirmed her. He then sent her away in peace by affirming that Hannah’s asking will find the answer. Hannah seemed to know then that God had heard her prayer. She went back to the family and sat down and ate something (1:18). In her trusting attitude, the depression disappeared, and her sorrow melted away. Hannah’s spiritual victory was gained through the anguish of tearful prayers. In the end, Hannah trusted completely in God’s will for her life.
Upon returning home, Hannah conceives and bears a son, Samuel. He is born to a faithful woman who dedicates to the Lord. God’s hearing goes named in the child “heard of God”, Samuel. Hannah is the one who keeps her word, after a prayer of thanksgiving, she leaves him with Eli, the high priest, to be raised in the temple. Her child will be the one who anoints. God’s promises will be kept and achieved. The Scripture tells us that the LORD remembered her. I believe that God remembers our church member’s existence, prayers, and praises.
In 1 Samuel 2, Hannah wanted a name that focused praise on God for what he had done and not on anything she may have done. Samuel was a gift from God. He was not the product of her strength or her own achievement. She prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for his blessing and exalted Him for his great works. Hannah rejoiced in her own experience and exalted in the LORD. “In the LORD” her strength was lifted high, and her boasting was in the deliverance of the Lord. The final section of Hannah’s song rejoiced in her future hope, and she proclaimed that the Lord would guard the feet of those who are faithful to him. Hannah also rejoiced in her God and in God’s way of justice.
Hannah sings the ways of God in “raising the poor from the dust.” Her song is a victory song for the Lord who overturns conventional wisdom and dismantles earthly powers while uplifting the least this world overlooks and oppresses. God’s promises of justice and joy will be kept continually. Encouragement based on God’s promises builds up community.
Hannah connects the personal miracle of bearing a child against all odds to God’s promise for the whole community. The gifts Hannah brings to the community were persistent trust from profound suffering, the existence God remembers, and Samuel who is a gift from God who will be anointed in the promises of God. I appreciate that we all have gifts and talents to be shared in our family, faith community, and this suffering society.
With Hannah, we may sing with joy, celebrating the justice of God that breaks open the future to new life. In her closeness to the Lord, Hannah caught a prophetic glimpse of the coming Messiah, the exalted King who will be the judge of all the earth. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
In the meantime, God’s presence will always be with us, helping something new and good to be born out of destruction and sadness. Especially in crisis, time seems to stand still, “How long, my God”, or “How long, our Lord” sounds like a familiar lament in the past or present. However, history remains in God’s good care. God’s promises will be fulfilled, and His presence links past, present, and future in hope.
Mark emphasizes the danger to faith that will arise after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In Mark 13, Jesus said to his disciples, “watch out that no one deceives you.” At least three times Jesus warned his disciples to “watch out” or “be on your guard” several times. Jesus wants us to live life in alertness and awareness.” Jesus warned his disciples not to be deceived by imposters who claims of themselves or others to be the returning Messiah. Jesus warned us not to be deceived by such false prophets who claimed to know when Jesus was returning.
In Mark 13, Jesus prepares his people, both present and future believers, for the end times. Jesus begins the preparation of his disciples for the end times by warning them about false saviours and false signs. (5) Mark puts this story close to the time when Jesus is arrested. Jesus knew there would be troubling and difficult times ahead and He wanted to give His disciples something to live as true believers and disciples no matter how bad things get.
How has faith sustained through difficult times? What might our church members encourage each other in hope? Together we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it! We can have confidence in the certainty of God’s Word. God’s creating and redeeming power is at work in, with, and under the circumstances and actions of all the events of our lives. Our saviour, Jesus wanted to prepare His people to be ready to face the present and the future world with confidence even in the midst of suffering. May we all discern God’s will in any situation and live by keeping our faith.
I believe that God helps us to recognize that God is with us and he gives us joy and justice in His promises even though we are in the midst of natural disasters, socio-economic distress, emotional and spiritual challenges, and many kinds of uncertainty.
We do not know when Jesus will return, but in the light of Christ’s returning, may we thank God for each day he has given us to live for Him. May we have ongoing awareness that the things of this world will not endure forever and there will come a Last Day only God knows. We are commissioned by God to spread the gospel, especially in the light of Christ’s return. We are to live life consciously and not complacently. May we pray for the Lord to help us live life consciously each day and ask Him to help us be willing to witness for him while we are waiting for his return.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)