October 16, 2021

Who wants to be a Millionaire? 10-10-2021

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? Gospel of Mark 10: 17-31 Homily by Geoff Serpell
Whether you like it or not most of us have reached that lofty pinnacle through the prices of real estate going through the roof. The home Jan and I live in is worthless for rate valuation, but the site has escalated from $1500 which I paid around 1958 to be valued at $1.1k today. The improvements, that is the house, workshop and doghouse will all be demolished on our demise, so they are valued at zero.
As a family during the second world war, we were quite poor. Whilst Dad was posted away in the RAAF, Mum, sister, and I lived behind a shop front in Surrey Hills where Mum taught violin to pupils to cover the cost of bread on our table each day.
Pocket money was scarce as a kid. On a few visits to grandma who lived in Sale, Gippsland, my sister and I would scout around the town paddocks collecting empty beer bottles, which recycled would earn us four pennies for every dozen. It was a thirsty town during and just after the War, so we earned enough to buy fishing tackle and ice blocks. Millionaires’ we kids were, well, for a few days anyway.
Gifted a beach house to live in at Sandringham by our grandparents, Mum and Dad got by, but the luxuries did not come easily and then only by inheritance when the Sale grandmother died.
So, at this stage I had better remind you just how privileged we then were and now are. As members of the first world, we have shelter and clothing and running water and medical care and superannuation and books and furniture and many other possessions, even an electric bike. You need no reminder that many people around the world have little or none of these things. I should urge you to think about how you could help other people share in this privilege. This would be a reasonable thing to do.
However, I am not a reasonable person, and we are not reasonable people. We are disciples of Jesus, a most unreasonable man, who views the world in topsy-turvy terms and tries to show us the world through his eyes. He did it again in today’s gospel reading, A man who owned many fields and other possessions came up to Jesus and asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus looked at him, & loved him, and said, “Go sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
When the man heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving. Maybe he went and sulked in his grand old house, called in the accountant, and checked through his rental books. Maybe he made himself a stiff coffee: the story does not say so. Instead, we are told that Jesus turned to his disciples and said:” How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God”.
Notice what Jesus did not say. He did not describe the wealthy landowner as privileged. He didn’t tell him to be grateful, and to find ways to share in this privilege. Instead, he told him to get rid of his wealth, because only then would he be free to follow Jesus. When Jesu said this, his disciples were perplexed. We all know how privileged the rich are, we are. We all know that we are blessed. How can it be difficult for us to enter the kingdom?
Maybe riches do prevent us from entering the kingdom, or the culture of God. We can forget just how interconnected and dependent we all are, Wealth insulates us from knowing our need of others and our need of God. Wealth gives us the illusion of control over our lives, and of our futures. It makes it hard to learn to trust in God’s provision. Wealth can make us blind to the needs of others and blunts our compassion.
As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that wearing a $3,000 or $30.00 watch, makes no difference as they both tell the same time. Whether we carry a $300 or $30.0 wallet or handbag, the amount of money inside is the same. Whether we drink a bottle of $300 or $10 wine, the hangover is the same. Whether the house we live in is 300 or 3000 sq metres, loneliness is the same. You will realize, your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.
Whether you fly first, business or economy class, you all land at the same time. We need to educate our children to be happy, not rich. When they grow up, they will know the value of things, not the price. You are loved when you are born and loved when you die. In between, you must manage. The six best doctors in the world are: – Sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence, and friends. So, maintain them in all stages of life and enjoy a healthy life.
We can be insulated from other’s needs, being complacent, comfortable, and secure. When approached it is easy to direct the needy to government or welfare or to lifelines. God demands that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and love each other. This in real and material ways.
A friend from the Victorian Welsh choir sent me something I have treasured and now share with you. It is a story of a wealthy man and his son who loved to collect rare works of art. In the collection were included masters from all round the world.
Making a long story short, the son was called up for duty in Vietnam where he died saving the life of a fellow soldier. This soldier later knocked on the mate’s father’s door and handed him a picture he had painted of the wealthy man’s son. This picture of the deceased son was the pride and joy among the whole gallery of paintings, at the father’s home.
Later the father also died and later still a great auction of all the paintings was arranged. Influential people flocked to the auction and were firstly shown the portrait of the late son.
“Who will bid for the picture of the son?” the auctioneer asked. Deathly silence. “We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one”: said a voice from the back of the hall.
It was a long time before a voice came, being from the long-time gardener of the man and his son. $10 was the bid. No one else spoke. Sold for $10 called the auctioneer and then he closed down the auction.
Amid uproar, it was stated that whoever bought the painting of the son would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.
“The gardener who took the son’s portrait gets everything!”
God gave His son over 2000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: ‘The Son, the Son, who’ll take the Son?” Because you see. Whoever takes the Son gets everything!
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, who so ever believeth, shall have eternal life. That is love.
I received a treasured email from a cousin now living in the USA who divorced her husband of some 40 years and is now married to a centenarian. This about the “Mayonnaise Jar”.
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee. A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. Class began in silence as he filled the mayonnaise jar with golf balls. The students agreed that the glass was full.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar and the pebbles rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. Was the jar now full? Yes.
Now came a box of sand and it got poured into the jar. Was the jar now full? Yes. The professor then produced two cups of coffee and poured them into the jar. After the laughter died down the professor said: “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life”.
The golf balls are the important things including God, family, health, friends, and favourite passions. Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car whilst the sand is everything else-the small stuff. If you put the sand in first, there is no room for the golf balls or the pebbles. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for things that matter most.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children, take time to get medical check-ups and take your partner out to dinner [when you are allowed]. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.
Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set priorities because the rest is just sand.
One student asked what the coffee represented, and the professor replied: – “It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend”
In the words of Rev. J Barr from Blacktown, Sydney in “From Love to the World”, the rich rewards we are to inherit from God come in a commitment to faithful, sacrificial living in which the call to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and be the persons Jesus calls us to be, that is the number one priority.
May our prayer be: “Jesus, teacher, give me the humility, courage, and confidence to follow your teachings today and every day”.

Geoff Serpell, 10 October 2021.

Becoming as Children 03-10-2021

Becoming as children. – Homily by Geoff Serpell
19th Sunday after Pentecost
[Scripture Reading: Mark 10: 2-16]
I am really pleased to have been invited to lead today’s service, having been out to grass as a lay preacher for such a long time due to this pandemic.
I had to scratch my head when I studied the set topic for today, but although challenging, I hope we all get something beneficial from my presentation.
Today’s passage from the gospel of Mark is about the ethics of divorce. Many of our relatives, friends, including at least one Uniting Church Minster and indeed two of our sons have been through this painful experience. My father was married four times and went through one divorce. With one of our sons the divorce came after thirty years of marriage.
What I hope to present to you is a fuller understanding of what Jesus said about the law down through the centuries and wrap up with the status of children and same gender relationships in the view of our church.
From the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, reveals that in 2019, 113,815 marriages were registered, and 49,116 divorces were granted in Australia. The number of same sex marriages was 5,507 which represents about 5% of all marriages in Australia mostly performed by civil celebrants. Almost one half of all marriages end in divorce.
Let me go back to the Gospel of Mark where several passages are duplicated in Matthew. Jesus is replying to a trick question posed by the Pharisees, the largest Jewish sect regarded as hard-hearted legalists and noted for self-conceit and long prayers. They were in Judea, the Kingdom of Herod. The question of the Pharisees was hostile. It was for unlawful divorce and remarriage that John the Baptist denounced Herod Antipas and Herodias. Herodias had been married to Herod’s brother but left him for Antipas. This rebuke cost John first imprisonment and then his life. Jesus was now in Herod’s jurisdiction, and the pharisees hoped that Jesus’ reply would cause those in authority to seize him as they had John.
The Uniting Church Minister, Rev. David Beswick, believes that Moses, reflecting the loving kindness and compassion of God, allowed women a right of remarriage. Without this, a wife could be a slave to her husband or, without him, an outcast from society.
I n his response to the Pharisees, Jesus gave a higher meaning to the loving kindness of God. We humans were made male and female for each other and in fulfilling our potential to become God’s children, we should recognize and honour that gift by living faithfully and reflecting God’s love in the way we relate to one another.
Jesus’ reply is saying that if you treat something like marriage as just a set of laws to be complied with, then you have missed the whole point of what God is on about. Jesus is not making a blanket condemnation of all divorced people at all. Rather, he is criticizing religious teachers who exploit the law to maintain their own veneer of righteousness while behaving abusively towards their wives and children.
Jesus was not so much the opponent of divorce as the champion of women. At that time a Jewish man could divorce his wife for the most trivial of reasons when the discarded woman and their children could be left without means of support.
Our Bible passage now passes on to the disciples trying to stop people bothering Jesus with requests for him to bless the children, so Jesus rebukes them and welcomes the children, telling the disciples that unless they receive the kingdom of God like a little child, they will never enter it.
We should realize that it is God who calls the shots, who reigns on high, so we can relax and put our trust in God’s gracious leadership. We should not try to exalt male over female, or white over black, or rich over poor, or citizen over refugee by victimizing those we designate as lower. We need to find our common sisterhood and brotherhood with one another and with Christ, finding our place as fellow children of the one God. May we choose to honour the leadership of those who are clearly from a position of submission to Christ and stand against those who would usurp Christ’s lordship and attempt to lead us on an opposing path.
In a world where there are always arrogant fools getting themselves elected or seizing power by force, do not despair for the fate of the world lies not in their hands but in the hands of the one who rules overall, and who humbly offers his life for all. To him be all majesty and authority, dominion, and power, both now and always.
Uniting Church National Assembly resolutions: Marriage and Divorce: July 1997
In the case of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, the Church acknowledges that divorce may be the only creative and life-giving direction to take.
The Church has a responsibility to:
[a] care for people, including children, through the trauma of the ending of a marriage;
[b] help people to grieve, repent, grow in self-understanding, receive affirmation, grace and forgiveness;
[c] support them as they hear God’s call for a new life.
The grace and healing of God are available to people who are divorced, which may free them to marry again.

Uniting church Victorian Synod in 1999 resolved: –
To call upon each member of the Church, when engaged in conversation regarding sexual orientation, to recognize the following: –
[a] All people, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual are loved children of a loving God;
[b] Christians are called to reflect this love in their dealings with one another.
[c] Christians should not vilify others, either individually or collectively, because of their sexual orientation and
[d] Similarly, Christians should not vilify people of differing theologies.
16th Assembly: B11 National Safe church Unit
This was established in 2019 as a response by Uca to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
This is to ensure that all parts of the UCA are places where all people can feel safe. In 2020, the Unit provided a suite of resources to strengthen our culture of safety.
Geoff Serpell
3 October 2021

The Prayer and Service of Faith 26-09-2021

26th September 2021 Pentecost 18 (Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
Title: The Prayer and Service of Faith
(Scripture Reading: James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50)
By Heeyoung Lim
We can communicate with God by praying. James 5 invites us to pray both in times of trouble and in times of joy. Trouble includes physical and emotional stress arising from both ordinary trials and special difficulties. We can pray in all of life’s situations such as sickness, confession of sin, seeking God’s will, the recovery of broken hearts, and the revival of spiritual stagnation. In times of joy, may we sing songs of praise to God instead of complacency in life or worldly contentment that can cause people to distance themselves from God. It can be expressions of our thankful responses. We are to keep on praying to God as the creator during tough times too.
Christians who face difficulties often lose their awareness of the presence of God due to their anxiety and gloom. Christians who are in the joy of abundance tend to forget God. May we pray and praise God in both the darkness and sunshine of our lives.
The prayer offered in faith is based on confidence that God is our healer. In accordance with today’s text, the prayer of faith will make the sick person well and the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, because the Lord will raise them up. God hears the prayers of righteous people who pray with passion. Effective and powerful prayer comes from righteous person and the heart of a believer whose passion is to see the will of God worked out in life. May we remember that believers have a right to faithfully respond to God in all of life’s situations.
However, this does not imply that if a person has a strong faith, God will answer the prayer the way they want. God does His will and work in the ways best for the kingdom of God. Prayer can bring healing, but lack of healing does not show that the one praying lacks faith. It does not mean that God is incapable of healing, or the prayer is invalid. Verses 14 and 15 refer to physical healing and not to spiritual deliverance and verse 16 teaches us to confess our sins to each other so that we will be forgiven and pray for each other to be healed. It is confession to dedicated, trusted prayer warriors who will intercede for us with God. If we have sinned, we will be forgiven through our repentance and confession. God hears the prayers of penitent people and forgives sin. May we offer faithful prayer support for struggling or stumbling Christians as trusted spiritual friends.
Elijah in verse 17 was able to perceive when God wanted to begin and end the drought. The example of Elijah challenges us to seek a closeness in our walk with God so that we know and follow His will. Those prayers which accord with the will of God will be answered. May we walk in God’s will that we love what God loves and reject what he rejects.
Verse 19 focuses on the spiritually sick and outlines how to restore them; Whoever will save them from death and cover over a multiple of sins if someone bring sinners or wanderers back to Christ. The act of bringing someone back is not about conversion, it is about reclaiming a Christian who has wandered into sin. Today’s text invites us to do our best to bring wandering believers back to full commitment to Christ.
We do not want someone will experience eternal separation from God. Christians who encourage straying believers back to Christ obey God and lead the sinner to forgiveness. For restoring wanderers and finding the lost, we would expect the starting point to be prayer for the repentance of wanderers and a ministry of love in supporting and encouraging them.
The world is still full of sin, tragedy, and those who wander, but Jesus’ disciples can continue to engage the world in hope for a time when faith community can be reunited, and the kingdom of God can be extended in and through prayer. We pray for others who are in need and the wider world. This allows us to see the image of God embodied in others, to share in their suffering, and to add our prayer for the good of the world. I believe that the power of prayer is seen most clearly in the praying church. The prayers of the community build up community and allow the people to become more like Jesus. The faith community is empowered to carry out Christ’s mission through prayer. It is a faith expression and response in which all ages can participate from children to the elderly. Prayer changes relationships, lives, and communities, and the prayer of a righteous person works powerfully. May we pray in strong faith to God both in times of trouble and in times of joy and we be truly to walk with Jesus.
A faith community enhances the lives of its members, shapes values, and provides protection and support. It is a place of identity, where people have a sense of worthiness and sense of belonging because they are recognized and cared. There is a constant tension between being inclusive and being exclusive. When John sees a man healing people and overcoming demonic forces and claiming to be doing it on the authority of Jesus, John knows that this man is unknown to Jesus, so he tries to have the man stopped. (Mark 9)
However, Jesus doesn’t treat the Good News as his exclusive matter. He wants other people to hear about it and to live by it. Can we use someone else’s name without their permission? I do not think we can use someone else’s music, writings, art, and inventions without their permission due to the copyright. Jesus gives people the credit when they serve others in the name of Jesus.
In Mark 9:41, Jesus pointed to service again as he told his disciples that humble acts of service when done because of Christ will be rewarded. Jesus tells us about the service of “a cup of waters”, which was a great act of hospitality and kindness in the dry climate of the Middle East. Our actions and our words carry significant weight.
Jesus warned His disciples and us about the risk that we may stumble ourselves, and these words were spoken not to everyone but to those who were seeking to follow Him. He talked to the disciples about the salt and saltiness, the qualities that would purify, preserve, and enhance their community. Their saltiness involves being humble in their relationships, giving of themselves for others, reaching out people around them. Jesus tells His disciples, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another,” (50) In Matthew 5:13, the disciples are called to be the salt of the earth, but they must be aware of losing their flavour and so becoming worthless. Jesus wants us to have salt among ourselves and be at peace with each other. May we live in peace with one another.
God hears the prayers of His people as they cry out for peace. The Love of Christ encourages Christians to pray for others and to love others. I hope we can be righteous people who pray with passion, and I pray we live at peace in Christ. May we be passionate praying church.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

True Glory in Service to God 19-09-2021

19th September 2021 Pentecost 17 (Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost) Title: True glory in Service to God
(Scripture Reading: James 3:13-18, 4:7-8; Mark 9:30-37)
By Heeyoung Lim
As Christians, we often fail to recognize the presence of God and the meaning of His gifts, but we desire intimacy with God. We saw in verses 9-10 that Jesus talked about his death and resurrection and that the disciples did not understand his teaching. In verse 31-33, the scene shifts to a house, a confined area where avoidance is harder to get away with. Jesus does not let His disciples stay on the comfortable outside when they did not want to hear about suffering Messiah. Their comfort zone was a place where they lacked understanding of Jesus, and a place where they rejected Jesus’ words. This shows not only that the words of Christ give us hope and strength and the fact that He leads to take ourselves to our limits, step outside our comfort zones and go the extra mile to achieve greatness in the name of Jesus Christ.
Jesus begins to talk about the signs of his betrayal, death, and resurrection, but He explains nothing. When Jesus predicted His death, the disciples argued over who would be the greatest in His kingdom. They were still thinking of Jesus as a conquering Messiah. When Jesus asked the disciples what they had been arguing about among themselves, they remained silent. They ignored and denied what they hear for the second time. Jesus did not focus on their arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus called the twelve and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (35)
Jesus tells us that if we want to be first, we must be last. The theme of servanthood echoes throughout Mark’s Gospel. Jesus said that the greatest in the kingdom will be the person who serves. He stated again that human values are not necessarily kingdom values. Jesus took a little child and placed the child among them. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Jesus Christ has become our servant.
Jesus shows the preciousness of every human life in the sight of God, no matter how small, how insignificant. When have you been like the child whom Jesus embraced? I believe we can find comfort, aid, and security in Jesus’ arms by welcoming Jesus. When have you been brought to the true glory from the frustration and disappointment?

We are all in our weakness and vulnerability, but we will be warmly hugged by God. Brooks states, “To ‘welcome’ or ‘receive’ means ‘to be concerned about, to care for, to show kindness to.” To accept the outcasts and oppressed is a way of accepting God’s will. Who is the greatest? Greatness in the kingdom of God consists not of position or power but of ministry or service.
In the ancient world children were precious to their parents, but they had no social status or value. They were considered among the lowest element in the society of that time. We have seen how Jesus treated the sick and outcast; we have seen how he treated women. Now we see His treatment of children. (36) Our commitment to Christ demands that we serve the weak and the outcasts of society as well as the powerful. May we welcome children and care for them as special members of our congregation. I pray we feel the peace of the Lord in Jesus’ arms and serve each other.
Today’s text shows how little the disciples understand Jesus and his mission. We remind that the disciples had been talking about which one was the greatest instead of understanding Jesus or serving others. The pain and frustration that goes along with the loss of status and honour are perhaps akin to that experienced by the disciples of Jesus as they struggled both to hear and resist what He was saying. After all, they had seen miraculous things, they had been with the Lord, they had performed great deeds. I believe that there will be changes in our faith and lives that please God. May we be all on the way with Jesus.
When we spend time with God, we can surrender our life agenda to him and ask how He would want us to live and serve. Jesus shows the disciples the source of their true glory and what is to be the Christian’s glory. When we are faced with trials, may we remember there is a deeper glory than what we can see in this world. I hope we can get in the habit of seeing things from an eternal perspective though we are on the earth.
James encourages us to submit ourselves to God. James 3 reminds us of our need to demonstrate genuine wisdom. The Bible calls on all of us to show the presence of God’s wisdom in our lives by deeds of humility and goodness. Believers with true wisdom avoid envy and selfish ambition and produce peace and righteousness in Christ. The wrong response by false wisdom destroys unity, but the right response by true wisdom can contribute to peace.

James warned that people who had envy and selfish ambition could boast about it or deny the truth. Those who choose to deny the truth can end up rejecting the truth of the gospel. Selfish ambition and envy prove that a person is following the route of false wisdom that does not come down from heaven but is earthly or demonic.
Unfortunately, we Christians are often guilty of using this twisted wisdom, but we can get in another habit of seeing eternal things from heaven even when we are faced with trials. God wants His people to control their tongues and to display true wisdom. He values humility, peace, and righteousness more than self-centred zeal and ambition. May we be consistent in the use of our tongues and not to deny God’s truth. May we ask God to help us develop true wisdom as the dominating characteristic of our lives.
Verse 17 and 18 tell us, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Full of mercy is revealed by offering compassion to those in distress and full of good fruit is shown by kind actions and helpful deeds to others. True wisdom results in a harvest of righteousness, an experience of peace, and harmonious relationships between human beings. May we bear fruit, which is godly, righteous, or helpful to others. Our commitment to Christ demands that we serve the weak and the outcasts of society. I hope and pray that we find true glory in service to God and others.
In James 4:7-8, God wants us to come near to God, submit ourselves to God, and purify our hearts. I hope that we can be of people that search for His voice and listen out when He tells us “Come to me”, “Purify your hearts”, and “submit yourselves to me”. Greatness on Jesus’ terms means being humble, lowly, and vulnerable as a child. It seems to be risky, but His way of greatness is the path of life. The love of Christ will cast out all fear. May we serve God and others in the love of Christ and walk with Jesus in our faith journey.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Our Responses to Jesus’ Identity 12-09-2021

12th September 2021 Pentecost 16 (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
Our Responses to Jesus’ Identity
(Scripture Reading: James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38)
By Heeyoung Lim

If the relationship develops, there are other insights to be gained. With further share and experience between relationships, an acquaintance may turn into a friend and a friend may become a life companion. But there are limits to how much we can know about another person. In everyone there are secrets and surprises of the heart and deed that will not be revealed or that cannot be discerned. In relationships between Jesus and disciples, the disciples’ knowledge of Jesus was growing and their understanding becoming greater.
Jesus asks His disciples what they have heard about Him. Then Jesus questions the disciples about His identity. “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” It seems that when Peter calls Jesus the Christ, he has the right title but the wrong understanding of what the title means for Jesus. When Jesus declares that he is going to suffer and be rejected and be killed, Peter does not want to hear about a suffering Messiah. He seems to be looking for a Messiah who will establish God’s kingdom with authority and power, and who will bring His followers glory and reward. Popular messianic hopes of that day awaited a militant character who would bring deliverance to the nation and freedom from Rome.
Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone about this event. He knew the disciples did not have a full understanding of who the Messiah was or what he would suffer. (30) When Jesus spoke about his upcoming passion, death, and resurrection for the first time, Peter told Him to stop talking like that.
However, Jesus told and corrected Peter, “Get away from me, you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (33) Peter was thinking like everyone else. Jesus led Peter to be reconnected to discipleship by the correction. In Christ God enables us to find a way that is different from the way of the world, leads us to discern God’s will in our lives, and invites us to live by God’s wisdom that are not embodied in the normal course of human life.
James 3:1-12 speaks of the power of the tongue for ill or good. The risks associated with the responsibility of speaking is found in Peter’s attempt to stop Jesus. The tongue is a small organ, but it can control and influence major events in life. Those who misuse the tongue receive God’s condemnation. (James 3:1) James warns against the chaos our tongue can cause. Verse 10 highlights the inconsistency of one mouth between praising and cursing. People are inconsistent if they bless God and then curse those made in God’s likeness at the same time. When they curse those whom, God has made, they are effectively cursing God. God tells us that such a double standard is outrageous, and this should not be.
We have lots of opportunities to think about self-awareness, the degree about caution of speaking, and the possibility to cultivate of wisdom in our faith journey. Colossians 4:6 provides a conclusion about speech, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
In seeking to control our tongues we must admit to God our weakness, seek his help, and place relentless guard on our tongues. God’s grace can enable us to use our tongues and our words for blessing and encouraging others. (11) Fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom. God wants His people to control their tongues and to display true wisdom. By nature, the tongue could serve as a divisive instrument of evil, by grace, the tongue can become an instrument of positive blessing.
While Peter was not possessed by Satan, he was temporarily used as an instrument of Satan in this situation, even though he was the one who confessed Jesus as the Messiah. Because we are children of God who believe in Jesus, we do not belong to Satan, but we can be affected by it temporarily when we fall into temptation. May we always be awake in the Lord and follow Jesus.
Jesus wants us to interest in the things of God and He leads us to accept His mission and demands for discipleship. In this passage, Jesus tells the listeners, what it means to be a true disciple of His. He tells everyone about the cost of being a follower of His.
Jesus said to His disciples and the crowd, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (34-35) The phrase “deny himself” implies that we must seek God’s will just like Jesus and submit our will to His. Take up his cross might have been an offensive statement to the listeners. Today’s text tells us that Jesus’ disciples are to take risks in serving, giving, and sacrificing for people and the world in the perspective of God’s wisdom which can be expressed as risky wisdom.
By denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus, a disciple acknowledges that he/she is submitting to Jesus’ authority. Taking up our cross is about a willingness to pay the price of following Jesus and living out the gospel. When people lose their lives by taking up the cross, they find life in Christ. Christian growth is a process. May we, Jesus’ disciples, follow Jesus through denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and submitting to Jesus’ authority in our lives.
We can answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” We confess Him Christ, Messiah, Lord, Saviour, Master, Friend, Son of God, etc. Our experience of Jesus is all precious, but it is limited because we have experienced some, not all. Jesus wants us to set our mind on divine things and respond to Jesus. Our responses to Jesus’ identity are not perfect, but we can follow Jesus by seeking God’s will in our lives and utilize our memory of how Jesus has worked in the past to make it through our tough times.
We are in the chaos between isolation and connection, silence and too much talk, inclusiveness and exclusiveness, and openness and closeness. However, I believe God’s word and our words of encouragement will build us up and send us back to our life with renewed enthusiasm and a tongue committed to God can be used as a positive tool for building hope and strength in others.
God’s wisdom often calls us to turn and follow unexpected and risky paths. Jesus invites us to speak, encourage, and bless by grace. I hope our culture of speaking will be transformed in God’s hands. We live between great confessions and shameful ones. All our words should be illuminated by the word of the Lord and embodied through practical action. May we walk right paths and live by the gospel trusting and hoping in God’s presence. May we deny ourselves daily and submit to Christ’s authority over us. I pray we confess who Jesus is with depth of understanding of Him and share warm blessings and graceful words each other in the love of God.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

God’s Restoration Plan 05-09-2021

5th September 2021 Pentecost 15 (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
God’s Restoration Plan
(Scripture Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7; Mark 7:24-37)
By Heeyoung Lim
Happy Father’s Day!
“The Season of Creation” has begun, which is defined as: “It is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together. During the Season of Creation, we join our sisters and brothers in the ecumenical family in prayer and action for our common home.” It is an invitation to discipleship that faithfully seeks to partner with God in caring for God’s Creation.
The international theme for the 2021 Season of Creation is “A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God.” Oikos is the Greek word for “home,” or “household.” UCA President Rev Sharon Hollis has shared a message “We show our love of God by caring for the earth and by being passionate advocates for this broken, beautiful, scarred and glorious creation.” Care for creation is a spiritual and theological imperative embodied in Christ. God’s creation needs to be restored.
Today’s text shows God’s restoration plans and actions. He shows his plan to redeem His holy people and His world and to heal all human weaknesses. Isaiah chapter 35 starts with brightness against the dark background of chapter 34. Even the most barren desert or wilderness will blossom with flowers in the day of salvation. Through the prophet Isaiah, God has given His people a word of hope that He will transform a barren wasteland. The land can be glad, and the desert shall rejoice because God reveals his glory. (Isaiah 35:1)
God’s appearance would destroy the enemy but bring salvation to the people of God. Such salvation is not limited to a spiritual realm. God will heal all human hurts and restore justice to his world on his time schedule and in his ways. The prophet, Isaiah, was called to encourage the weak and feeble and to proclaim God’s Word. Their reason for fear would vanish. God’s purified people would pass over His highway, the Way of Holiness, and enter Zion in accordance with God’s word. Only the people whom God had redeemed from captivity would be allowed on the road.
Although we are often isolated in COVID lockdown and captivated in uncertainty, I believe our Father God will lead us to the joyous journey safely and the joy will be everlasting. The day of redemption will come, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. The best was yet to come. I hope our life become a festival of praising God. May we praise God for every sign of His saving work in our lives rather than complaining about our weaknesses and feeling sorry for ourselves.
God is on schedule to carry out His plan for the world. He saves His people to reveal His glory. God expects His people to be holy and His plan is to bring everlasting joy to His people. I hope we give our fears to God. May we trust God to know our plight and to have a plan to deliver us.
Mark wanted to emphasize the mission and inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation. The gospel of God’s love and His kingdom are not limited to Israel, it is open to all people. When Jesus was looking for a place to rest with His disciples as well as to escape the persecution of the religious leaders who were always following Him, a Gentile woman sought Him. (24) She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
Mark shows the cultural and gender boundaries that existed between Jesus and the woman. The Gentiles and the Jews had not always treated each other kindly, and there was a gender issue too because men dominated women during this time. Also, a rabbi or teacher was not supposed to have any direct contact with a woman.
However, the Syrophoenician woman’s desperate need of her daughter and faith in God’s goodness caused her to humble herself before Jesus and risk crossing all these barriers. (25) She had a strong faith that refused to believe she was excluded and said to Jesus, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She pleads on be half of one who is vulnerable and suffering. This shows she has persevering faith in God’s grace and goodness. The barriers of race, culture, and gender are surface issues.
Then Jesus told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. This woman’s faith must have pleased and surprised Jesus. When true healing on the inside is necessary in our lives, only the gospel can cross these barriers to bring such healing. Jesus teaches that our relationship with God is based on a sincere faith that transcends all barriers.
Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” or “Be opened!” At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak plainly. Jesus demonstrates the grace and goodness of God through the healing of a deaf man. Jesus even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. His word ends the individual’s separation from sound, from community, and from communication. Our healing Jesus wants our ears and mouth to be opened. Only Jesus can restore us to the position and purpose for which God created us.
Jesus lay down his life for the whole world and all people. There were no exceptions, no favourites, and no discrimination in His salvation. In Jesus Christ, God is reconciling the whole world to Godself and to each other. It doesn’t matter who we are, or what our life experience is, or what our cultural background might be. We are all embraced in God’s generous love, and all welcomed into the one precious group rather than individuals in Christ.
In this season of creation, may we join God’s restoration plan and action and renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation. In what ways have you witnessed God bringing justice into your life? As I have already mentioned before, I believe God will heal our hurts and restore us on his time schedule and in his ways. We have all been gathered up in God’s extravagant grace; that we are all invited to the place of reconciliation with God. We are called to live by the gospel. May we participate in God’s restoration work as faithful followers of Jesus. I hope we strive to love God’s creation the way God loves us. May we ask God to help us see people and nature as Jesus sees them, and we cross all barriers and serve with the Lord.
“Be opened” Jesus wants us to hear God’s voice and speak His word clearly. I believe our ears are opened and our tongues are released when we respond to the gospel. Once we acknowledge that there are no walls separating us, love and mercy flow unfettered, and all people are deemed equally valuable. May we cross boundaries to serve and work by word and deed and be a part of ecumenical family who look after God’s creation by prayers and actions.
Thanks be to God! Amen. 
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Hearing and Doing God’s Word 29-08-2021

29th August 2021 Pentecost 14 (Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost) Hearing and Doing God’s Word
(Scripture Reading: James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1- 8)
By Heeyoung Lim
We are on a journey of faith and mission together walking with Jesus. In today’s world, especially COVID situation, we are often isolated and under lockdown. Jesus is leading us into new ways of being church through God’s Word. I hope we can show the gospel in practical ways, and I pray our church will be more caring, welcoming, loving, and spiritually alive congregation even in this difficult new environment.
James encourages us to take a leap of faith in trusting God to lead us to endure trials and to overcome temptations. He began by addressing them as “my beloved brothers”, and then challenged them to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. This is hard work, especially for those who are quick to judge and impatient with others. A person with perseverance holds up under pressure and looks at God in all circumstances. James is keenly aware of the power of human speech both to build up and to destroy and concerned about anger which is an emotion that can be destructive.
The commands refer both to our relationships to one another and to God. We cannot hear God if we remain distracted with resentment or hatred. Today’s text warns against pretending instead of listening, deceiving instead of obeying, and talking instead of serving. (James 1:17-27) The command to be quick to listen requires for an eagerness to hear and obey God’s Word. (19) God wants His people to triumph over their trials and to live in obedience to his commandments. May we obey God’s Word whenever we hear it and separate ourselves from sin.
We try to obey God’s word, but there would be gap between what we say and what we do in our lives and differences between our faith and actions in our faith journey. Today’s passage invites us to encounter faithful action and persistence. May we continue our faith journey in God’s reign by thinking of the connections between hearing God’s word and doing it. Our relationship with God is the context for faithful living and the set for genuine responses. It is the reason for speaking and acting. The Letter of James expresses the belief that God is the giver of all and all good has its source in our God. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,

with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (17) Our loving relationship with God is based on God’s deep and unchanging love for us.
The letter of James invites us to reflect on following God’s word and receive the implanted word which may refer to the good news about Jesus. (21) It tells us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (22) It challenges us to do more than listen to God’s word and invites us to believe that God loves us unconditionally and eternally. Our acts of love and generosity reflect our faith that every gift comes from God.
The gospel can be described as a living seed rooted into the human heart at regeneration. Although the gospel powerfully influences in the human heart, it grows by obeying it and renewing their commitment to the Lord. The gospel has power because it actively provides a chance to transform individuals into committed disciples of Jesus.
In Mark chapter 7, Mark points out that the gospel is a matter of the heart and highlights the emptiness of religious performance. The religious leaders discovered that Jesus’ disciples did not wash their hands before eating. They were upset because Jesus’ disciples were not following the “rules” for ceremonial washings that added to the law and handed down from generation to generation. (3) They were asking Jesus, “Why do your disciples not walk according to traditions of elders?” (5) Jesus gave them the answer by quoting from Isaiah 29:13. He called the religious leaders hypocrites and said, “This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (6, 8) He continued to tell them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.” Jesus responded by differentiating between the commandment of God and the tradition of the elders.
The observance of religious rites does not produce “righteousness” in a person. Doing religious activities on the outside does not mean being Christian on the inside. Jesus teaches that our relationship to God is not based on religious formality but sincere faith in Him. Jesus made it clear there was a big difference between human traditions and God’s commands. True worship must come from the heart. They were concerned about surface piety and purity, while Jesus was concerned about internal purity. Jesus teaches that the purity of a person is not determined by external actions but an internal heart attitude. He invites us to live out gospel from our heart.

The power of God not only sustains us but also strengthens us to overcome barriers in our life. In today’s text, we see Jesus, the sacrificial servant, setting people free through the gospel’s power. Every barrier can be overcome by the gospel’s power and Jesus transcends all barriers such as racial difference, or religious traditionalism. He has come to set us free.
Religious acts do not produce personal holiness. Our faith is pleasing to God and seeks His grace. Religious legalism can lead us away from God. We can ask the Lord to make our worship of Him meaningful rather than mechanical. God wants to communicate with us, and He wants to hear our prayers. May we search ourselves to see if we have any prejudices about race, culture, gender, or people. We can ask God to help us look at people as Jesus sees them. May we strive always to do as Jesus calls us to do and to share that love with all those we meet.
How do we respond to God’s lavish generosity of love? We can strive to clear away the non-essentials to live as closely as possible to our core elements of faith and essentials of God’s salvation and love. I believe we can find ways to response to God’s love. It can be a good opportunity to remember those who have helped to shape our relationship with God. May each of us and whole Leighmoor congregation genuinely respond on God’s steadfast love. May fresh inspiration come to us for new faithful action as we reflect on the perfect gift of love and words God has given us. Obeying God’s word and loving others will bring blessings in our lives. Loving and caring for the weak and needy will show we are following Christ. May we be both hearers and doers of the Word.
God’s Word is revealed through our lives. As we know, our actions speak louder than our words because actions add value to our words and make them strong. The truth we must follow is the Word of God, and we must obey it. Hearers will be blessed in their doing and the doers can rejoice in knowing that their actions, born of the Word, demonstrate faith. May we reflect on God’s loving intentions for humanity through the hope of renewing our attitudes and actions. I believe that our faith-based lives and practices will be tools to change the world. May we live out the gospel as a loving community in Christ, nurturing one another in faith, upholding one another in prayer, and encouraging one another to serve God.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Put on the Whole Armour for God 22-08-2021

22nd August 2021 Pentecost 13 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost) Put on The Whole Armor of God
(Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-30, Ephesians 6:10 – 20)
By Heeyoung Lim
The earth is the LORD’s and while humanity has been entrusted with care of God’s creation. We are only stewards, not owners. The earth itself is a witness to the glory of God and the Lordship of Christ, but it suffers from many things that are normally linked with human sin and fault. In addition to the difficult situation of COVID-19, there are so many difficulties such as violence, wildfires and earthquakes occurring all over the world, and the world is being destroyed and torn by human induced climate change and selfish and greedy people’s mistakes. I hope we can make a better future by saving energy and water, tree planting, using environmentally friendly products, and living in harmony with creation. God commands us to look after and protect whole creation in accordance with God’s word. I hope we can have our own stories and actions for our environment and sustainability and participate in God’s work. Every effort must be undergirded with prayer.
David was promised that someone from his house would a dwelling place for God. 1 Kings 8 tells of the fulfillment of that promise and emphasizes that the temple is a place of prayer. Solomon stands before the people in public prayer and opens the temple as a place of prayer for all people. At the centre of all prayer is a conviction about God. God’s presence is not limited to any physical place, but He graciously reveals Himself in special ways in His house. That is why biblical prayer begins with adoration of God. Our prayer needs to be based on what God has chosen to reveal about Himself and what He has spoken to us, not on what we like to think or imagine about Him. (1 Kings 8:22) God is never far away, and the presence of God equips our faithful lives.
Today’s Ephesian text gives advice on how to live the new Christian life and Christian spiritual warfare. (Ephesians 6:10-20) Christians faced daily harassment, discrimination, and suppression by their neighbours and the authorities at that time because Christianity was illegal until A.D. 313.
Christians must go through transformation while they grow spiritually. They must shed old selves and licentious lifestyle and put on their new selves of godly righteousness and holiness. (4:22–24) Christian

individuals, families, and communities become exemplary, living in love, forgiveness, and thankfulness. In this spiritual warfare with sin and evil, God in Christ through the Spirit supplies to Christian’s power and strength, and Christians are “to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power”. (6:10) Christian life in the predominantly pagan world became challenges to the “Ephesians.” One of the major challenges that early Christians experienced in their transformation was about power. We must prepare ourselves inwardly for the outer struggle. The outer struggle against the injustice and powers will test our inner resolve. God never ceases to offer new opportunities to grow and deepen our sense of commitment in faith community. Our inner heart and resolve might be tested or shaken while we are struggling against injustice and powers.
However, suffering and struggling can be parts of the process of faith development where spiritual growth occurs and can be ways of deepening into a mature faith. Fighting and the victory in the spiritual warfare may be opportunities for spiritual growth where followers of Jesus stay alert to evil, pray and love, influence one another’s growth, and look after one another. God’s unconditional love and spiritual resources are found among us and in nature. His love and spiritual power enable us to stand firm and endure in tough times.
These spiritual resources are “truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, and faith” that are found in the human-divine relationships and in the natural environment. (14-16) Spiritual resources are expressed in music, arts, and through our lives. Expressions of spiritual resources can be seen in the care of world and nature, in acts of love and justice among the people, and in the compassion and commitment of faith communities. It is very inter-relational and helps in spiritual growth.
Today’s text invites us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. God wants us to put on the whole armor of God, specifically, “stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (14-17)
The weapons are mainly defensive, equipping us to withstand attack. The belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield, and the helmet are all to enable us to remain safe under attack. As we can see from the fact that

the sword is an offensive weapon, this passage does not just suggest passive resistance. Paul is challenging his readers to take the fight to the enemy. The Bible tells us to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The best weapon we can use against our enemies in spiritual warfare and life fields is the Word of God. There may be attacks of doubt, despair, and temptation in our lives, but faith in Jesus as Lord of the Resurrection will protect us and the Word of God will give us all victory. We do not wrestle against human, but against the forces and authorities, against rulers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (12) We do not have to fight each other because humans are not our enemies, they are our neighbours we need to love. May spiritual growth be occurred with the hope and resiliency in Christ.
In today’s text, prayer in the Spirit is crucial. We cannot win the spiritual battle against Satan in our own strength. It must be the strength of the Lord. We do not need to be unduly fear the devil or evil because Jesus is everywhere. I hope we will be able to defend ourselves in Christ and we will still be standing firm before the Lord when the battle is over. We are to take on the enemy by Spirit-empowered words and by Spirit-inspired prayer. Our prayer needs to be based on what God has spoken to us, not on what we like to think or imagine about Him. Spiritual warfare must be undergirded with prayer. Our common weapon is prayer that the community is able to be strong in the strength of God’s power.
May we be to put on the full spiritual armor of God so that we will be able to win the spiritual war against the devil. If our armor is in place, we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Our community is encouraged to know God’s presence to be closer and more active, to walk on God’s love, God’s truth, and God’s way of peace. Do we have all our pieces of armor on? If not, which ones do we need to put into place? Are we under-girding our battle with prayer? We are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. I believe that we can be strong in the Lord. When God is glorified, His people are blessed. May we put on whole armor of God in Christ. I hope and pray that we are equipped, protected, and transformed to do God’s work together by protecting whole creation and putting on full armor of God.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Thanks to God in the Name of Jesus Christ 15-08-2021

15th August 2021 Pentecost 12 (Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost)
Give Thanks to God in The Name of Jesus Christ
(Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 3:3-14, Ephesians 5:15 – 20)
By Heeyoung Lim

After David’s death, the role of leadership passes to his son, Solomon. Intimate relationship with God is required to lead the people of God. He sought relationship with God by going to worship. This was not a private ceremony but a national act of worship with the massive number of sacrifices such as a thousand burnt offerings. Solomon, as a king, made the Lord a priority. In response to Solomon’s worship, the Lord appeared to him in a dream with an amazing offer: Ask for whatever you want me to give you. (1 Kings 3:4) It was a divine revelation and God’s offer was a remarkable generosity.
Solomon’s response was a mixture of gratitude and humility because he focused on God and his own weakness. He felt incompetent because he does not know how to carry out his duties. He faced a responsibility that overwhelmed him and realized himself the king of the people God has chosen.
He made a request that brought pleasure to the heart of God: Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people. He wants to provide good leadership with a posture of servant leadership for God’s people. Solomon is very much aware of his own inadequacies as far as serving in the role of king. He asks for the ability to fulfill the role of governing God’s people well. He does not ask for wealth or power, he asks for wisdom that he might lead the people in accordance with God’s desires. His hope pleases God so that God gives him even the riches and honour he did not ask for. God provides beyond our expectations or even deserving. We are called to serve God and community with God’s wisdom. May we be equipped with God’s wisdom.
A theologian, Dora says, “We need to seek wisdom and equip ourselves to build communities in which every person is valued; where the reality of justice and peace is experienced by all; where the vulnerable are protected, where power is used for the good of all.” It can be our wishes and prayer topics.
Today’s text continues our lives are to be lived in constant imitation of God and explores what it means to have wisdom in our lives. It draws the distinction between wisdom and foolishness. How do we discern what is wise and what is foolish in the choices we face?
It is not always easy to live a transformed life even when we want to because the world is filled with dangers and deceptions. We can get tripped up by people and temptation without even being aware of risks. Therefore, we must be fervently in our efforts to stop committing evil sins. We must be very careful to live our life rooted in God’s wisdom, for our own wisdom is biased and limited. God wants us to live in accordance with His words and to use our time wisely. The time we are given is not our own, it is God-given.
We are often not good at time management. When I was a Uni-student, I tried a time audit for myself for 4 months. I was shocked by the differences between the plan and actual use whenever I reviewed how I spent my time. However, through that experience, I was able to see how much I was wasting my time in vain, reflect how much I trying to seek God, and change into a person who can use my time a little better.
Having turned away from the old self to the new, Christians are called to being of the body of Christ. Verse 17 says, “not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit”. Unwise behaviour harms the body of Christ, and it wastes the precious time left before Christ comes again.
Paul tells us about how to commune with God, how to live for Him, and how to serve and obey Him. He contrasts between how the god of Ephesus is served and how the God of heaven is served. (18) We can discern God’s will and serve Him faithfully by being filled with the Holy Spirit. In Acts, in the miraculous instances of the filling of the Spirit which resulted in speaking in tongues and other extraordinary activities. In Ephesians 5:18, when we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, it has no extraordinary events occurring with it. “Be filled” in this verse means directed, influenced, and governed by the Holy Spirit.
The second half of this passage emphasizes living wisely with giving thanks to God and speaking to others with music from the spirit. “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (19-20) It describes that there are three characteristics of the person filled with the Holy Spirit, which are the way of speaking, importance of music, and attitude of gratitude. Paul urges his listeners to be “singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts” (19) True worship begins in one’s heart and the centre of one’s being. God delights to respond to our prayers that come from the bottom of our hearts.
The Scripture tells us that thanksgiving is a way of shifting toward the will of God or opening to God’s guidance. The attitude and practice of thanksgiving in worship and life keep our mind and direction to God. Praising God is our privilege and responsibility at the same time. God is the only one who deserves our praise, but today the Bible tells us to respond to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This list indicates that singing is an important part of worship in our community of faith.
When the faith community is living out worship and praise of God together, its life will be transformed wisely. Worship contributes to unify, sustain, and develop the community a way that permeates all aspects of life. Worship is not a weekly event, but a way of daily living.
Today’s text invites us to speak and sing just like giving music each other by blessings, comforts, and encouragements. The harmony by speaking and singing in a community would be beautiful if the members of community are filled with the Holy Spirit. I believe that being filled with the Spirit results in mutual love and service to one another.
God is our source of wisdom and life, and true wisdom begins in the recognition of God’s presence. We can warmly embrace others by blessings just like music and can give thanks to God all the time and for everything because our lives have been new, forgiven, and transformed as followers of Jesus. God’s offer to Solomon resembles Jesus’s invitation of “ask, and it shall be given.” In what ways do we seek wisdom in our relationship with God?
We face many challenges as we strive to follow Jesus in our lives. Some of us have recently lost loved ones. Some of us are struggling with relationship issues. Some of us have serious health problems. Yet today’s text tells us, “Give thanks to God at all times and for everything.” All of us face challenges in life, but I believe that we can still give thanks to God. That is not our duty, it is our privilege.
Now we can pause and think about our lives, all the opportunities we’ve been given, all the gifts given by God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Living worship and wisdom. May we can give thanks to our Saviour for the gift of salvation we have received and praise and glorify God. We do not know what challenges we may face, what pain may come our way. But I believe it is possible for us to thank God as followers of Jesus, anywhere, anytime. I pray that we can give thanks in the name of Jesus no matter where we are or what we are doing.

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

Walk in the Love of Christ 08-08-2021

8th August 2021 Pentecost 11 (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)
Walk in The Love of Christ
(Scripture Reading: Psalm 130, Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2)
By Heeyoung Lim

Psalm 130 is a hymn that records the unknown psalmist’s confession of sin and God’s pardoning grace. This penitential psalm is for worshippers who are already justified by faith and have received forgiveness of their sins. Out of the depths of severe distress, the psalmist cried out to God and waits for the Lord. He confessed his sins, seeking forgiveness from God, and he encouraged others to do the same. When we have unconfessed sin in our lives, God waits for us to seek His grace and forgiveness.
The writer cried to God, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” Nobody can stand if the Lord keeps a record. The psalmist’s source of discouragement came from sin within rather than from outside. (Psalms 130:1) When desperation filled his heart, he pleads with urgency. True repentance is accompanied by always has a sincerity, brokenness, and remorse. His cry for mercy is a confession of sin, seeking forgiveness from God.
The psalmist continues, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word, I put my hope.” (Psalm 130: 5) He waits for full restoration and trusts in God’s word which promises blessings. He waited for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning. (6) Psalm 130 invites us to put our hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. (7) I believe that God’s people live and rest in his unconditional love and divine peace. We trust in God’s unbreakable covenant and hope based upon the immutable love of God. God is not absent in our despair. May we repent, be patient and remain confident in the love of God. May God’s steadfast love be upon you.
May we never do anything to grieve God, for we love God. Therefore, let us turn from the things that grieve and towards things that bring God joy. Today’s second text leads us to focus on serving and pleasing Christ.

Ephesians 4:25 begins by exhorting us to stop lying and instead make truth telling a habit of life. We should not deceive one another; rather by speaking the truth, we keep unity in the body as members of the one body.
We may not always be able to keep from getting angry, but we strive not sin when we do. When we do get angry, we must be extra careful to not harm others and deal with it before the day is through. If we are not able to control and manage the anger, it may give the devil an opportunity to gain control over our attitudes and relationships. It can be a foothold that leads to greater anger and more sin. (26-27)
Christians are not to steal, which is a timeless and universal value. We work and serve instead of stealing from the Lord and others. We live and work to worship, love, and serve Christ. The Bible describes God’s expectations for our lives. God’s work must be done God’s way through us. We are to live in such a way that our lives will be so distinctive, that neighbours and co-workers will want to know why.
Verse 29 says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” (29) We are to speak only words that build up and encourage others. Words of a mature Christian seek to help those who listen. The unity of the body of Christ may be preserved and enhanced through our response and obedience. This is not to say we can never say anything negative. There are times when we must talk about unpleasant things, particularly in solving problems with others. All find it necessary at times, to tell the truth or offer advice even if it is unpleasant. Whether we are solving a problem or not, our intent is always to build up, not tear down, to unify, not divide. (30)
Today’s text tells us that each of us must rid ourselves of six sins: bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (31) Rather we should be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (32) We are to put on three virtues: kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, for Jesus showed us the love and forgiveness, modelled for us by Christ. God’s commands will bring challenges, but they remind us of the amazing possibilities for those who have been re-created in Christ, brought into the church, and called to live out the gospel. When we live together in the love and forgiveness of Christ, the church will be built up, people will become holy, and Christ’s body will be unified.
God’s love and forgiveness transform us to live life to its fullness as the Body of Christ. The Bible calls the church to transform its culture into that of the kingdom of God. It is just more than just getting along and doing something; it is being the Body of Christ. The church is to be motivated and governed by God’s love and witness to the love of Christ. I believe that our church will be a place of living love where Christ’s love rules. Paul reminds us to follow God’s example and walk in the way of love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (5:1-2)
In today’s world there is an emphasis on achieving goals quickly. Many people like to do things quickly and can take short cuts, but our faith journey as followers of Jesus does work step by step.
The theologian Martin Luther said, “This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal, but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being purified.”
The journey can be rough, but we can move forward gradually, learning to love as Jesus loves, growing towards fullness of Christ. Love and forgiveness are not from our abilities, they come from God.
Paul called upon them not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God”. (30) Christianity is an ongoing encounter with the living, and loving God in revealed in Christ Jesus. Our life of following Jesus is work in progress. We keep on striving to live out our faith through loving actions. We are always on the way with the Holy Spirit as our helper. We follow Christ in hopes that we will grow into the likeness of Christ through the Holy Spirit and that God will use us as instruments to bring in God’s peace, justice, and love.
As God’s beloved children, we do not just love God, praise God, worship God or, thank God. We also follow and imitate Jesus in faith and life by walking in love and forgiven. May we keep on becoming imitators of God and walk in the love of Christ.
Thanks be to God! Amen.

(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials, quote by Martin Luther)