November 26, 2022

Jesus’ Boundary-Breaking Love 21-08-2022

21st August 2022 (Pentecost 11)
Sermon Title: Jesus’ Boundary-Breaking Love
(Luke 13:10–17)

                                                                                      By Heeyoung Lim 

Jesus taught people in a synagogue on this Sabbath, He sees a woman there who has been unable to stand up straight for 18 years. The crippled woman does not ask for healing. Instead, Jesus calls to her and sets her free from her serious illness by laying hands on her. Her response is to stand up straight and begin praising God. 

In John 9, Jesus said that the sickness has nothing to do with sins when his disciples asked him, rather, this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. In this woman’s case from Luke 13, her back had been bent for eighteen years because an evil spirit controlled her.

When Jesus sees and calls the woman, she responds by coming forward. When He declares she is “set free” from her sickness, she stands up straight, praising God. Jesus’ loving, caring eye picked her out of the crowd. Jesus identifies her as a recipient of God’s blessing and a person of faith. Jesus healed by placing his hands on the sufferer, and healing came immediately. The woman recognized the source of her healing and praised God.

However, the synagogue leader is angry and criticizes those in the crowd who have come for healing on the Sabbath. Filled with righteous indignation, the religious leader pointed out that Jesus broke the law and people cannot work on the Sabbath. When Jesus taught or healed, the reaction was mixed. Many people were thrilled and praised God, but some became angry and indignant. In this leader’s eyes, Jesus has broken the Law. He insisted that this day is for God’s work but missed the whole point of what God’s work is. He was caught in the trap of placing form before substance.

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites!”.  He asked him, “Is she less important than your animals?” Our Lord does not want us to be content for religious hypocrisy. Jesus untied her from the suffering she has faced by his love and mercy. If the Sabbath is to honour God, what greater honour is there than to restore someone to wholeness.

The religious leaders were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things Jesus was doing. The entire crowd rejoiced in response. Especially the least people who had no other defender against the religious system and the political oppression. They saw someone break the system or tradition which gives more attention to religious rules rather than human needs. They were delighted to see someone who cared for and helped those who are in need. They recognized that God’s work through Jesus’ boundary-breaking love was glorious, which seems to indicate they knew these were divine acts.

Jesus lived within the Law but came to help people understand the spirit of the Law in a new way. His action to set the woman free to worship on the Sabbath shows that healing and liberation take precedence over human rules. Dedication to God leads to meeting human need, while dedication to religion protects the tradition even at the cost of human life. May we have confidence that God is at work growing his kingdom even when we cannot see much evidence of it. Entering and experiencing the kingdom of God can be done by faith, listening to God’s Word, and practicing it, not by maintaining religious tradition. May we remember the Sabbath Day or the Lord’s Day to keep it holy. 

Jesus welcomes, loves, and restores all in the ways of God’s healing reign. We are invited to celebrate and praise God for His boundary-breaking love. We also are called to be agents of such healing freedom. Someone is probably living in the shadows in some way. May we reach out and invite people to the centre of our community’s life together.

Can we celebrate the worth found in all people in worship, learning and serving? How might we recognize every single person within Christian community? To be in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Jesus’ time was to be at the very centre of the Jewish faith. This is where life, faith, and community merged in a wonderful celebration of God’s presence and promise. It would have been a joyous, awesome, and holy place. 

But Jesus calls and places the woman in the centre of the community and transform the crowd. May this service enable our congregation to praise God more and more, and all be more valued and passionately called by the Spirit of Christ into a loving community.

God calls us toward the places where grace and healing hope and justice exist. He opens us to new dimensions of faith and gives us courage to break the rules that bind and burden, to bring joy in abundance where joy has been depleted.

Jesus reaches out to the woman burdened and living in the shadows and proclaims she is “set free,” and we rejoice in our liberation as well. God, our rock, and refuge, affirms, calls, and sets us free to participate fully in God’s healing, reconciling reign. God breaks into our world and shakes things up.

As we approach the healing ministry, we realize God’s unlimited power and our limits and pray for the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual liberation. To ask for healing helps us step into Jesus’ invitation for healing and restoration. Even when the pathway seems to be unclear, in Jesus’ healing power, may we stand up straight to look up Jesus and praise God just like the healed woman. 

The theology of the Sabbath in Jesus’ practice and teaching implies for us our memory of God’s healing and freeing power in Christ over the oppressive burdens on God’s people. This woman becomes a testimony to the freedom of the people of God from demonic oppression and the burden of disease and anything else that robs God’s people of full life. Jesus restored her socially, physically, and spiritually. 

Jesus wants us to be renewed and transformed by the love that breaks boundaries. May we lean on and truly trust God, who is the Spirit and Hope in our lives. In the spirit of the Sabbath, may we accept the gift of rest and devote one day a week to focus our attention on God in a special way. I hope we can keep a holy day and devote ourselves to those things that deepen our love for God. 

According to John Piper’s writing about the Sabbath, we can extend our holy exercises forward into Saturday night and dream together of new ways to sanctify Sunday morning. Lord is leading us to new dimensions of prayer, or new hours of personal Bible reading or study, or new deeds of mercy for the poor, or visitation to the lost or the least, or boundary – breaking love to each other. 

It is right to do good on the Lord’s Day. Where Jesus is, the kingdom is. Where Jesus is, things begin to be made right. His ministry provides a foretaste of the coming kingdom. In the reign of God, the world will be repaired and restored. We are all witnesses to the world that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the sabbath and of our life. May we continue to do what Christ has called us to and seek to be productive and bear fruit in our Christian walk and race. 

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

Run the Race in Faith 14-08-2022

14th August 2022 (Pentecost 10)
Sermon Title: Run the Race in Faith
(Hebrews 11:29-12:2 & Luke 12:49-56)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

The beginning of Luke’s Gospel proclaims that Jesus will “guide our feet into the way of peace” (1:79). Near the end of the Gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears among his followers and offers a benediction of peace (24:36). He taught His followers to bring greetings of peace as they shared the good news. (10:5–6)

How might we understand Jesus’ statement that he brings fire to the earth instead of peace? (12:49) In the light of his own example and his preaching, what can Jesus’ words of division possibly mean? (v.56) Unity is always important and valuable, but Jesus doesn’t want us to have hypocritical peace or be pacifists. The fire he has come to cast on earth is the divided and hostile responses that the Spirit-inspired proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection will engender. Jesus was fully compelled to accomplish the mission for which he has been sent, so that its results spread to the ends of the earth.  

Even during worship, some worshippers carry with them an unforgettable lifetime experience, emotional complexity, and sometimes very painful memories from other communities or relationships. That includes shameful things that have been done in the name of Christ’s church in many places. However, even when division begins between godly ways and worldly ways, the gospel continues to break in among us if we are at the opportune time and under the impulse of God. The way of faith breaks well-worn moulds of expectations in our lives as we grow into the people God calls us to be.

Life is tough and unsettling. We want easy and simple answers, but they are usually complicated. May we let go of the things that weigh us down, looking at the example of Jesus, who did not give up in proclaiming the message of God’s justice. How can we set things aside and move forward? 

Jesus’ disciples and crowd saw Him as king of peace, perhaps the king who would win or end all wars and create the kingdom of peace. However, dedication and faithfulness to Jesus set a person apart from others or the world. The coming of Jesus the Messiah left no room for neutrality. May we choose to be for the Lord, not against him. Our choice sometimes brings strong opposition and separation from those closest to us who make the other choice.

There are both joys and trials when we take up the role of disciples. What keeps us going when the going gets tough in the life of faith? Today’s text explores sources of strength, example, and encouragement, and reminds us that God restores and guides. Beyond Jesus’ unexpected speaking to the crowd, there awaits an equally strong word of forgiveness and God’s tender embrace. Jesus has provided his people an example to follow in facing life’s trials.

By faith, the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, the walls of Jericho fell after 7 days of marching, and Rahab welcomed the spies with risks and was not killed. Rahab is a foreigner, yet by her faith she risked her own life to save the lives of others. The inclusion of Rahab shows that people who live by faith are not always who we think they may be. It reminds us that “by faith” God’s people did some amazing things. Faith led believers to experience God’s better blessings. It begins with a confidence in the existence of God and provides a confidence that God rewards those who seek him with the whole heart.

What God requires of God’s person is producing a fruitful vineyard and running a fruitful race as in Hebrew 11 and 12. In those times, the faith community is seen to have faced severe persecution. Concerned that people would turn away from the Christian faith, the writer encourages the people of God to hold faith even in suffering and become faith-filled people who persevered to the very end.

The use of “we” and “us” in the text (12:1) means the faithful journeys of the community with togetherness rather than just a solo run. May we run the race together not in competition but in a spirit of collaboration and encouragement. The examples of those who persevere in faith against the difficulties encourage a struggling community. May we seek justice, act kindly, endure hardship by faith, and influence others in faithfulness. Choosing faithfulness is not easy nor passive. It can be demanding and often requires change and growth. 

Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2 reminds us that God rescued Israel from Egypt, but their path has not been easy. It asks us to think about our forebears in faith, those who are faithful to God, whether things went smoothly for them or not. Luke 12:49–53 can seem particularly harsh and unsettling. May we run a fruitful race in God’s hope for a harvest of justice and righteousness.

Believers find encouragement in being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses as the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11. Their triumph gives evidence of a life of faith, and the cloud implies a massive host of these exemplary servants. We receive much encouragement from knowing that others have faced obstacles in the Christian life and have gloriously triumphed.

Our faith and such encouragement led us to cast aside our hindrance and sin in the Christian life. Rejecting sin’s entanglement helps us run our race with perseverance. May we avoid all actions that produce bitter fruit and contaminate the lives of others. The race is that path God has marked out for us. May we faithfully follow the route God himself has marked.

Christian athletes must keep their eyes fixed on the goal. That calls us to focus attention on Jesus without being diverted to anything else. Our Lord’s steadfast obedience provides a perfect example of commitment for struggling believers, and his life-giving love surrounds and leads us.

May we have opportunities to stand before God with open hearts, seeking God’s love and the courage to live a Christlike life. Beyond formal worship, may we have other opportunities for personal confession and reconciliation with God in our lives.

Faith enables us to glorify God in daily life. Through Christ, believers receive the rewards of their faith. By faith, may we prepare for the coming storm of judgment or enjoy the river of blessings just as people can predict the weather or coming of a rainstorm. I hope we can run God’s race together, looking to Jesus.

By faith many Christians gained divine promises and conquered injustice, but some faced torture and suffering because of their faith. They endured jeers, threats, imprisonment, and death through faith, and God’s commendation has been given to them. Their faith challenges us and sometimes calls us to climb the mountains of difficulty which surround us.

When we believe in Jesus, we walk with him through whatever he places before us. With faith in God, we can face sickness, loss, difficulties, and uncertain futures. However, with faith in Christ, may we glorify God in daily living, find and follow His will for our lives, run God’s race, and receive his commendation of “Well done, good and faithful servant”

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

Service and Readiness of Daily Life 07-08-2022

7th August 2022 (Pentecost 9)
Sermon Title: Service and Readiness in Daily Life

(Luke 12:32–40)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

Many people live in fear because of war, the economy, global warming, unemployment, hunger, poverty, homelessness, disease, and death. It looks impossible to escape. Even in our daily life, people are bullied and neglected physically and emotionally, and sometimes they are abused mentally and spiritually. 

Jesus offers a word of comfort in a threatening world: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). It opens us to the blessings that God is prepared to give. Do we want to live lives of giving? Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor”, calling on his followers to place their confidence in the imperishable things of heaven. In accordance with Jesus’ word, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. In some points of view, “giving” seems to lead to deprivation and desperation, but the gospel promises that giving from what we have will make us mindful of the God of blessing, and ready to receive the gifts that God offers. Do we live our lives as the master’s servants, God’s children, and Jesus’ disciples? 

The delight of his life is to find ways to give not just daily needs but his whole kingdom to you. May we be freed from worry and material things. Dedication to Jesus is more than becoming worry-free. Christian dedication is to kingdom service, not worldly goods. We are part of God’s kingdom and do the work He gives us to do. May we not let anxiety rule our life. God will give us His kingdom. I hope and pray that we can concentrate on being God’s instruments to establish His kingdom here on earth. 

But how do we do all this? Today’s text invites us to tuck the bottom of our robes into our belt and trim and light our lamps, so we are ready to serve God. A servant of the kingdom is always on call and has no time for delay. No time to go out to buy oil. No time to light the lamps so they will keep on burning. No time to adjust our clothing so we can run to the duty the Master entrusts. 

It means that the Master calls us His servants. Jesus wants us to be ready to open the door and to carry out the tasks He has planned for us. This is especially true in the light of the second coming. We must be ready to move when Christ returns. It’s time to hear God’s words, serve others, and set out to complete the task. Are we worrying about material goods? Are we serving the Lord and His kingdom? When Christ comes, may we be ready to move with him.

I believe that we can be serving the Lord and others in the present and preparing for the future at the same time. As in verses 37 – 38, God wants us to be alert until Christ comes again. No spare time allowed. He may come when we least expect him, in the middle of the night. May we be alert and be blessed.

Heavenly treasures give no cause for worry, but earthly treasures will be caused for worry constantly. Our heart, the center of emotions and mental activities, will concentrate on where we have our treasures. Our identity is determined by where our heart is. Many people Ignore God and spend their physical and emotional energy on the world’s goods and earthly success while many Christians trust God and spend their efforts on the matters of the kingdom of God.

The priority toward God and His kingdom should not be replaced by our earthly desire. May we not let possessions become the focus of life. May we not worry about daily needs but focus on Christ’s kingdom and trust God to provide daily needs. Waiting in difficulties is not easy in an impatient world. Our busy life or uncertainty is rooted in anxiety and fear about the future. What would happen if we really entrusted the future up to God? God will care for you. 

In today’s text, the eschatology or consummation focuses not so much on the end times as on the end ways. The consistent message throughout the passage is not, “Be ready so that you will avoid punishment,” but, rather, “Be ready so that you will receive blessing.” After all, those who are ready when the master returns will be the recipients of a heavenly feast (vv. 37–38). Living, loving, and serving are our happiness and blessings in Christ.

Today’s text claims that our ultimate concern is God’s kingdom, because it was God’s pleasure to include us in God’s reign. What we need, accumulate, and possess in life is transitory as just time itself. God’s blessings for us empower us to use our talents, possessions, and time to live and serve for the kingdom of God in the present as we hope and expect Christ’s second coming in the future.

The prepared ones are those who strive to live and serve faithfully in the present, hoping for the future and expecting Christ’s return. Jesus’ followers prepare for Christ’s return, not personal pleasure in the master’s absence. Jesus calls us to lives of faithfulness, being ever ready to participate in the reign of God.

In our daily life, there are many distractions that pull away from God’s word, and many plans and works that divert attention from the things of God. God wants to give us His kingdom and blessings. The things of God are to be given the most urgent priority in every Christian’s life. God’s tender and attentive care leads and follows you. God promises to surprise with the gift of the kingdom those who stand ready and waiting to receive this special treasure. If we trust God, we will store up our heavenly treasures. Nothing can destroy us and our treasure there. May we obey God, practice His word, follow Him until the very end.

I would like to invite you to ponder where and when such a gracious God has been encountered in the past. Was there a time when you were brave, patient, and peaceful in the face of a crisis? May we be exemplary servants in the present and trust in God’s provision for the future.

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

God’s Faithfulness 31-08-2022

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

Luke 12: 13-21 by Geoff Serpell; 31 July 2022

Today’s lectionary gospel reading is about a man who is already wealthy and who, because of a bumper crop, found himself with more wealth than he could point a stick at. The harvest was coming out of his ears. He said to himself, “I will store it all away, take early retirement and eat, drink and be merry. “He assumed he was covered for the years to come, only that he didn’t have years. That very night he died. He assumed that his future was secure, but he had no future to secure. The truth is that no amount of planning and no amount of wealth can ensure a secure future.

In recent times we have heard about ambulances waiting to discharge their patients into overfull hospital wards. Years of running our health system like a business has come back to bite us. A certain cancer doctor resigned his position after 23 years working in Victoria’s public health system. This doctor was the sort of doctor the system needs. He cares for his patients, which means sitting at the side of a dying patient for 20 minutes, not talking, not doing, just being a presence. 

This was a doctor who still wanted to listen to patients and understand their needs rather than just shove them through. Budgets are now framed on throughput, squeezing more and more patients through for less and less funding which erodes the quality of care. The system has no place for a doctor who sits at a beside for 20 minutes without doing anything you could bulk bill for. So, he quit like many others. No place for a person who values people over profits.

The context is entirely different, but the same values are under examination in today’s gospel reading. Someone in the crowd comes to Jesus and says, “Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me”.  Family disputes today over breaking up an estate are never pretty where usually the lawyers are the only big winners. 

In Israel at the time of our story, the selling up option was not on. The family inheritance was mostly the family farm. The Hebrew’s sense of connection to their land was like our Aboriginal people, you can’t just sell it off. Even today how would you divide land where one half has a creek running through it and the other half is near desert.

Jan and I in the market for a buyer of our land, in the family since 1958. We want to stay in Highett hence we have signed with Ryman who are building a Retirement Village at Graham Road Highett. We want to stay in our home till the unit is available maybe until October next year. Meanwhile we are decluttering!! Fortunately, the family is very much on side, and we keep them posted with a ball by ball description of events. I may end up writing another book.

Back in Israel, the procedure to get a ruling on such matters was to find a friendly Rabbi to agree on your proposition. This of course allowed some Rabbis to make a quick quid and help pay off the mortgage on the beach house down at Joppa. Jesus came at this problem from a different angle not wanting to arbitrate because there would be no reconciliation with the brother arising from an adverse ruling. A no win situation.

It would have been a bit like a woman and her son where, after putting in $20 a week each to buy lottery tickets and actually won $4.2 million dollars. But the son immediately claimed that he’d bought that ticket with his own money. The mother who said that their relationship had previously been “loving and close” sued him for her half. You can just hear the mother asking the lawyer: “tell my son to divide the family winnings with me.” Once you bring in the lawyers to resolve a family dispute, you might win the dispute but you’re unlikely to still have a family. 

Now the bloke in Jesus’ story has about eight times the harvest he expected, and it will not all fit in the barns, so he must decide what to do. What most jews would have done in the circumstances were to give thanks to God for this great blessing and then celebrate with friends by throwing a party. The usual thing done in those days also was to walk down to the town gates and discuss it with the elders who were good at solving problems of the universe. 

Our man does not do anything he should have. He gives thanks to no one, and he celebrates on his own. When he wants advice, he talks to himself. That’s what it says. His answer to himself is to tear down the barns and build bigger ones. You can imagine why this bloke has no one else to talk to. He’s the sort of character who would sell his own grandmother if there was a buck in it. The sort that no one wants as a friend.

Jesus prefaced his story by saying that your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions and now he has set up this pathetic creature who’s lived as though life was just a case of “He who dies with the most toys wins”. Jesus was saying to this man “How much is it worth to win this one? Will your life really be better if you destroy your family to get your hands on the inheritance?”

We are bombarded with images that tell us over and over that our life consists in driving that car, having such a piece of furniture, a certain fragrance, or the upmarket glass of wine. Not only can we have it but, the inference is, we deserve to have it all. Buy up and the economy will be better off, with or without Afterpay. 

An individual’s life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. A societies’ life does not consist in the profit dividends of its essential services. Jesus points us back to what our lives do consist of: our inter-connectedness with God, with one another, with our world. The web of connections which you can and do take with you. 

Jesus came to reconnect us with the sources of life, with love, with care, with joy, with the very God of life.

At this communion table, God places the bread of life and the life blood of the universe in our hands and says, “Eat, Drink. This is my body given for you, that you might have life. At this table, Jesus invites you into a relationship with God and with everyone who gathers at this table. The choice is yours. At which table will you find the life you want? 

If your busy having a conversation with yourself about where you will store all the things, you really want for the rest of your life then you will probably find nothing of value at this table and you will walk on by.  But if you’re sick of living like an island, working like a robot, and being treated like a ledger entry, then at this table you will find the way out. Ordinary things of no monetary worth, but priceless if you are looking for the way back into connection with the Spirit of the Universe and with those who are travelling into fullness of life. 

Faithful Prayer and Response 24-07-2022

24th July 2022 (Pentecost 7)
Sermon Title: Faithful Prayer and Response
(Psalm 85: 1-13 & Luke 11:1–13)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

Looking back to the past, the psalmist reflected upon God’s mercies displayed in previous years. Remembering God’s mighty working in the past brings confidence in the present. The psalm 85 recalls God’s past blessings to his people, and the psalmist calls for God to restore and revive his people, remembering God’s favour in the past. Their restoration was not only a physical relocation to their land but a spiritual one which includes their relationship with God that had been greatly affected. God forgave the sins of His people, set aside all his wrath, and turned from his fierce anger. It was a remarkable display of divine mercy and grace toward his disobedient people.

The psalmist asks God to grant salvation, bringing about their revival and restoration and wants that the same divine mercy be granted to their present troubles. (vv. 4-7) The word “restore us again, O God our Saviour” is a desperate request that God’s favour be once more extended in this present hour. The phrase “put away your displeasure toward us” indicated that their present crisis was because of their own sin. (v.4) This was a plea for the spiritual awakening of God’s people, a petition that God would restore their hearts with renewed devotion toward Him. If God would revive them, they would rejoice again. But reversely, there can be no true rejoicing without spiritual revival.

The psalmist requested, “Show us your unfailing love and grant us your salvation out of our present problems and spiritual apathy.” (v.7) The psalmist confessed, “I will listen to what God the LORD will say” and believed that His salvation is near. Such salvation is reserved for those who fear Him and His name. Such a God-sent revival would cause his glory to dwell in our land. The deepest longing of the psalmist’s heart is God’s presence. The restoration of His people would make known His greatness and majesty to all. (v.9) God promises peace and salvation to those who fear Him. 

In today’s text, love and faithfulness meet together, and his unconditional, steadfast, loyal love will work together with his faithfulness. Also, righteousness and peace will work together in perfect harmony. All four of these spiritual qualities are expressions of God’s abundant favour toward his people. God’s blessing surrounds his people. The LORD will indeed give what is good, namely, love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace. (vv. 11-12) In addition, wherever God’s presence is in the restoration of his people, righteousness will be clearly seen in the lives of God’s people. (13)

Psalm 85 asks God to “revive us again,” to “speak peace to God’s people” (vv. 6, 8). The psalm reflects speaking and listening, a conversation rather than a monologue, just as the last lines of Luke 11:1–13 show. You won’t give your child a snake instead of a fish. As Jesus taught the disciples to pray, we ask for our daily bread; it is important for deep-down listening to know what nourishment we need for that day. May we listen as well as speak when we pray.

Seeing Jesus at prayer made the disciples want to imitate him. Jesus’ disciples saw that Jesus’ actions each day came out of his prayer life with God and wanted to learn to pray from Jesus. In Luke 11, Jesus taught them a model prayer, and this prayer contains the essence of all prayer. The Lord’s Prayer praises God, seeks daily needs, asks for deliverance from temptation, and promises to forgive others in seeking forgiveness for oneself. Prayer is an essential part of the life of one who follows Jesus. 

Christians have come to know this prayer as The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ Prayer, or The Prayer Jesus Taught. In the Lord’s prayer, addressing God as holy or hallowed sets God apart from the world. The words of prayer proclaim a great hope: God’s way of being and God’s desire will be present in the world. The next prayers are to ask God to provide three basic needs – sustaining the world by providing food, restoring individuals and communities by forgiveness, and protecting the world. 

In our prayer and life, we depend on God to take away our sins. However, we know that forgiveness is not just an activity of God, we are also responsible to forgive those who treat us wrong. It is not a business transaction or give and take issue, rather, it is a process of focusing on godliness and not on worldliness. May we pray that God will transform our nature so that we become more like Jesus.

In Jesus and his preaching, the kingdom of God has been seen on earth. We pray that the day will come when the kingdom will be seen in its fullness and its permanence even though we do not know when. May we pray that God’s reign will have come, and His will be fully achieved.

Prayer is not just concerned with recognizing God and establishing his kingdom, but it is also individual and personal, asking for the necessities. However, prayer never becomes individualistic and selfish. We pray not just for ourselves but for all God’s people and the world. In all circumstances, may the intimate Father-child relationship be maintained. Prayer is an intimate talk between God and people and invites us to enter an intimate relationship with God.

Jesus got to the point of his parable: Ask God. Seek something from God. Knock expectantly at God’s door. The loving Father will open the door and provide what we need if we depend on the Father’s goodness and love. Faithful prayer will find answers even when those prayers are petitions for personal need. (9)

In Jesus’ parable, a friend comes to dire needs and knocks on your door late at night asking for bread. In the story, we see the desperate need, but the situation is for a family to sleep in a one-room late night. In this undesirable situation, friendship might not be strong enough to force the sleeper to awake and meet the visitor’s needs. However, the person would be shamed and dishonoured if he did not help a friend in need. It is because of “being put to shame” rather than just persistence or boldness.

Jesus describes further to whom we are praying and uses parables to emphasize God’s response to our prayer. In today’s text, even the least suitable parents will provide basic care for a child. The message to the disciples and to all hearers of this text, including us, is that God is good. God will always hear and respond, not because we are worthy, but because God’s nature is generous and loving.

Jesus said to them, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (v.9) This week, we are invited to visualize ourselves asking, seeking, and knocking unceasingly to be confident that to persist in prayer is to move forward in faith, hope, and love. Prayer is the work of the people, and people will express prayer in many ways. It will be at the very heart of our acts of faith. Some of us who have been long and persistent in prayer might have felt helpless in the face of extreme tragedy and pain. In many moments, however, prayer is often our only response. Faithful prayer has the potential to build faith communities through hospitality, support, and compassion.

God is good and always hears and responds. Prayer praising God and persistently asking Him to meet one’s needs represents an integral part of the dedicated life. Jesus’ disciples will ask God for the Holy Spirit to lead their lives with faithful prayer and response. May we pray to God every day, praising Him and seeking His provisions for our life and the world. In the love of Christ, may spiritual revival and restoration take place in our life, in our faith communities, and in the world through our faithful prayer and response.

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

Faithful Listening and Dedication 17-07-2022

17th July 2022 (Pentecost 6)
Sermon Title: Faithful Listening and Dedication
(Colossians 1:24 – 29 & Luke 10:38 – 42)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

Today’s text focuses on Jesus’ teaching about the importance of grounding our lives in faith. Martha and Mary are important to Jesus. Jesus and the disciples come to their village and are welcomed, invited into their home, and provided with food and fellowship. Mary places herself at the feet of Jesus rather than taking the culturally assigned role of providing the physical necessities of hospitality. It was a surprising turn of expectations in those times, because the spot was the traditional place for the male disciples of a teacher at that time. However, Jesus affirms Mary’s choice to learn from him. 

To those who perceive God at work in Jesus, there is much more going on than normal observers. Jesus is the promised Messiah who will reign all over the world with God’s never-ending love. Mary’s insight into Jesus’ mission shows one thing that is needful for a disciple of Jesus – hearing and responding to the word of God.

We are called to listen to God’s word, and then let it shape our lives each day. In God’s reign, Christ is our centre and holds all together. Which customs and traditions are blocking us from faithfully listening and responding to God’s word? In what ways are our faithful listening and dedication demonstrated and conveyed in our faith journey? May we place Jesus in the centre of our life by reflection on Christ and the way of God’s reign.

When Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, her speech was centred on herself rather than Jesus. Though she refers to Jesus as ‘Lord’, she was concerned to engage his assistance in her plans rather than Jesus’ words or Maria’s needs. 

Sometimes people’s needs can be out of focus and misplaced. Even Christians are dedicated to fulfilling the world’s expectations rather than Jesus’. At the crossroads of decision making, Martha had chosen necessary hospitality and social obligation, but Mary made the choice to hear Christ’s Word. Jesus would not take away from Mary the blessing and opportunity. Life has one essential need to hear and obey the Word of God. 

Martha needed to change her priorities or at least had to admit that Mary’s choice was a better part to Mary’s faith status and her life. In today’s text, Jesus’ commendation and his approval of Mary who did “the one thing needful” are heard. On the other hand, Jesus called Martha’s name twice and said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed.” Jesus did not point out that Martha’s service was wrong, because faithful dedication and hospitality are also significant. While Jesus is still honouring the choice she makes, He calls Martha to come closer to His word and reign.

Love for God is shown by devotion to his Word in the midst of life’s demands. Christ changes all priorities, cutting through our distracting customs. May we focus our life on God’s Word in any circumstance rather than social obligations. 

Jesus referred to Himself as “one who serves”, and Martha’s services were themselves manifestations of discipleship. In this instance, her problem lied in forgetting the fact that Jesus is Lord and guest, and her hospitality was distracted.

When anxiety in well-doing becomes the measure of our hospitality, then the church might forget Jesus who needs to be centre in our all gatherings. When Christ is proclaimed as instrumental or decoration to the church’s worships and events, then the community might cease to attend to the Word that first called it into being. Focusing on Jesus and listening to the word of God need to be priority in our precious services and all events.

Martha represents the ministry of diakonia, and Mary represents the ministry of the word. Faithful listening from Mary and faithful dedication from Martha help us understand the development of the ministry of diakonia and the ministry of the word. The ministry of service and the ministry of the word require each other.

In our busy lives, we can perhaps easily relate to Martha, who seems to be working hard while her sister Mary is “just sitting” and listening to Jesus. Many people will be coming to worship with a sense of being overwhelmed by busy situations. However, it will be important in worship to find ways to move through all circumstances, to stop sometimes, take a deep breath, and celebrate the presence of Jesus who seeks to enter our hearts and our lives each day. It is not about problem solving, it is about listening and dedication. May we focus on the presence of God rather than earthly busyness and glorify God by listening, praising, praying, and faithful dedication.

Colossians 1 puts Christ at the centre of everything. The universe came into being because of the action of God in Christ. The universe is being reconciled to God through Christ. When Paul says he is filling up what is still lacking regarding Christ’s afflictions, he is not saying that Jesus’ suffering on the cross was insufficient. Paul had encountered suffering. Yet Paul was able to rejoice in what he suffered. He was enduring suffering on behalf of Christ. The world hated Jesus Christ; and now they persecute His followers. Paul was willing to suffer on behalf of the church because he saw himself as the church’s servant. God gave him a commission to proclaim the gospel, and suffering was included with the commission.

In the dark and confused world, knowing the truth about the power of the gospel and the person of Christ is the believer’s best protection against deception. Jesus Christ lives in all who trust him. Not only does Jesus live in us; he is our hope of glory. Christ is the centre of everything, and ministry is the hard work of bringing all believers to maturity in Christ. Paul’s aim in enduring the suffering and hard work is to present everyone mature in Christ. May we hear and respond to the word of God and become mature in Christ. 

I believe that all your hard work and services are motivated and enabled by God’s energy, which so powerfully works in us, our church, and all faith communities. The goal of spiritual experience is not to chase the spiritual trends, it is spiritual maturity.

The Lord calls us to focus on Him when we gather on Sunday, to move from our place of being worried and distracted by many things to one where we listen to and obey God’s word, the good part that will not be taken away. There we will connect with the source that brings both peace and energy to all our ministries and services.

Healing and recovery come from unexpected places, and hospitality is reciprocal in this wounded world. May we experience God’s healing and recovery in this broken and wounded world by faithful listening to Jesus and mutual hospitality. God’s living word and mutual services provide us with transformative power. May we experience mutual respect and recognition in the love of God.

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

Go and Do the Same 10-07-2022

10th July 2022 (Pentecost 5)
Sermon Title: Go and Do the Same
(Colossians 1:1–14 & Luke 10:25–37)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

God’s grace and peace in a person’s life come from knowing the power of the gospel. Paul calls Colossian believers holy, refers to them as faithful, and commends them for their steadfast commitment to the gospel. He says the Colossians are brothers. They are one spiritual family despite differences in background, race, or any other human considerations.

Just like a rich cluster of grapes is evidence of life in the seeds from which they sprang, so the seed of the gospel bears fruit that proves there is spiritual life. Paul lists these virtues in verses 4-5. He points out three traits of Christian character that need to be evident in the life of those in whom the gospel seed has taken root: faith, love, and hope. It can be described as a cluster of virtues, and the virtues should be increasingly evident in our lives if the seed is growing.

Faith in Jesus Christ produces inclusive love for others. In those times, the false teachers were telling the Colossians that the fruit or evidence of spirituality was keeping rules or having mysterious experiences. However, Paul says that the real fruit of faith is love. The love in Christ is inclusive and nonselective. The love of Christ invites us to love the undeserving the same way God has loved us. Love is not a feeling; it is an attitude and an action. The term love is not just a noun, but also a verb. Love is sincerely wishing for another person’s best outcome and taking whatever action is necessary to see that it is accomplished.

The next fruit Paul mentions is hope. Hope is looking forward with eager anticipation and strong confidence to God’s promises. Paul also says that our hope is secure because it is stored up in heaven. Our hope is safe and secure in Christ. This confident expectation is what motivates us to be able to love inclusively. Paul tells us that faith and love spring from hope.

Paul then reminds us of the source of fruit in the lives of believers. The source is the word of truth, the gospel. The message of the gospel is truth. The gospel bears fruit not only in the lives of individual believers but all over the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a dynamic force that shatters the hard soil of sin and takes root as new life. By complimenting the Colossians on how the gospel had taken root and grown in them, as it has in all the world (v. 6), Paul encouraged them to remain faithful to the message of truth they heard and not be seduced by the lies of the false teachers. The gospel message bears fruit in believers and grows all over the world. 

Paul’s letter to the Colossians began with a prayer of thanksgiving. Prayers are needed to all believers who are doing well. God is pleased when believers grow in knowledge and character and when they express gratitude for their salvation. He is pleased when believers are growing in the knowledge of God. Believers can please God with endurance and patience as they are strengthened with all power according to his glorious might. Christians please God when they are joyfully giving thanks to the Father for the blessings of salvation. Pleasing God is possible only when His will is the controlling influence in our lives. We also share the Gospel of Luke, hoping to become disciples of the Lord who please God and to be good neighbours to each other.

The gospel of Luke 10 emphasizes and includes people on the edges of the society in which the gospel was written. The outcasts, the lonely, the sick, women, children, and the least are included in God’s reign as God’s people. The kingdom of God and all the opportunities to please God are open to all who know the love of God and respond to it. In God’s reign, love and compassion are the essence of faithful living and action. 

In this story, Jesus criticizes religious leaders. People might infer that these leaders were putting purity laws and temple practices above the call of the law to love God and neighbour, but the text doesn’t tell us why these individuals did not stop and help. The prophets from the bible were continually calling leaders and those who maintain and abuse power to turn from religious distortions back to the heart of faithfulness such as justice, love, mercy, and compassion.

In today’s text, Jesus gives us the prophetic call through a good Samaritan story. He challenges national stereotypes held by both the Jewish and Samaritan peoples. The Jews centred their faith lives in the temple at Jerusalem and the Samaritans focused theirs at Mount Gerizim. There were deep, historical rifts between these two groups. The Jewish audience of this gospel would have considered the Samaritans to be unclean. Yet in this story, the Samaritan is the one who responds most faithfully. 

Thus, the Samaritan saw the man, felt sorry for him, went over to him, and took the dying man.  He treated his wounds with olive and wine and bandaged them. He put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. Furthermore, he gave the inner keeper money and asked him to care for the suffering man. The Samaritan was a true neighbour who was showing love.

In Luke 10, Jesus answers a question “Who is my neighbour?”, with a story about a man wounded and lying by the side of the road. We do not usually think of our neighbour as someone who is in one chance meeting. Each one of us is called to be faithful to the call of God to treat every human being with love and justice.  

Today’s text can offer moments of reflection for us to ponder how we represent Christ to others. The Good Samaritan is a story of passing by or choosing to stop and help. It’s an example of how God presents each of us with opportunities to strive for relationships that will enable everyone in the community to flourish. How are we being called to action through this story today? We find faithful action from the Samaritan on the side of the road. Jesus promised God’s mercy to those who show mercy and told the lawyer to go and show mercy like the Samaritan had done. Jesus tells us, “Go and do the same” through today’s text.

The goal of people who dedicate themselves to Jesus is the gaining of eternal life that is reached as we fulfill God’s commands to love God and to love our neighbour. Eternal life is related to our faith, but our faith can be testified through loving God and neighbour. However, it is not the end. Increasing spiritual maturity ought to be the aim of every believer. May we fulfill the commands to love God and to love our neighbour.

Jesus calls us to shape our lives according to God’s justice and mercy, striving for relationships that enable caring community. As compassionate disciples, we love God with all our hearts and our neighbours as ourselves. We are called to live into the reign of God, where every human being is treated with love and justice. 

What acts of justice and kindness have accompanied our faith journey? In what ways do we strive for relationships that enable everyone in the community to flourish and shine? Our goal is to live a life worthy of the Lord. May we please God in every way and bear fruit in every good work.

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

God’s Compassion and Jesus’ Disciples 03-07-2022

3rd July 2022 (Pentecost 4)

Sermon Title: God’s Compassion and Jesus’ Disciples 

(2 Kings 5:1–14 & Luke 10:1–11)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim 

It is a young Israelite servant girl who brings about Naaman’s healing, suggesting he go to a prophet in Israel to be cured. Indeed, Naaman’s liberation and healing from disease come through several unexpected sources: a young servant girl, a prophet’s messenger, Naaman’s own servants, and the water of an insignificant river.

When the king of Israel was requested about healing of Naaman from the King of Aram, he focuses on what appears to be the impossible and worries about situations he faces in contrast to the servant girl, who focuses on the possible in sending Naaman to Elisha. The prophet Elisha offers a solution. The people who convince Naaman to try what Elisha suggests are also the servants.

We are left with a sense of amazement not only at Naaman’s healing, but also the fact that he has experienced compassion from the prophet Elisha and the various servants. These passages remind us God is good. Whatever we are facing, individually or collectively, God offers solutions through unexpected sources. 

Where is our water for healing and restoration? Can we rise from the waters together? When have we found ourselves alone or isolated? How has God’s compassion transformed those situations? When has that compassion come through unexpected sources? What moments of compassion did we experience or see in our community during arduous time? What pandemic or post-pandemic experiences have felt like healing waters to you?

The Lord works through His people and shows His compassion for all people with all kinds of needs. God’s compassion flows to those who follow His word. His grace and power are available to those who trust in Him and come to Him on humble faith, whatever their need in life. Faith is acting on the word of God. God has made Himself and His ways known through His word. In discipleship and daily living, we are called to be open to the work of God. When we are open, we can discover it in different places and from different voices, and from different experiences.

In Luke 10:1–11, Jesus sends out 70 disciples to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near; the compassion of God is indeed present in our world. Jesus was on mission, preaching the kingdom of God in the towns and villages. He was also on the way to Jerusalem to meet death. Time limitations prevented him from accomplishing the mission by himself. Even the Twelve could not do it all. That is why he had trained disciples. He sent out seventy, each with a partner, to prepare the way for His coming. That is what Christian mission is, preparation for Christ to come into lives, into towns, and finally to come again into this world.

Even seventy followers of Jesus could not complete the task. As Christ had told them to accept anyone in ministry who did not reject or oppose them, so He asked them to pray for others to join them to reap the harvest. In Christ’s ministry, the soil had begun to produce, and the harvest was ready. Workers for God’s harvest come when God’s people depend on God and pray for them. 

God’s people on mission show the presence of God’s kingdom, and Jesus’ disciples on ministry in their daily living show the love of Christ. In the meantime, rejecting God’s messengers is rejection of God Himself. May we bless the house or people with God’s peace and pray that God will bring wholeness and blessing and harmony to them. A peace-loving, hospitable host will receive God’s peace and blessing. 

As in Luke 10, the goal of life on earth is to have our name written in heaven. Jesus is the only way to know and experience God, but we can experience God’s compassion through our faith and love. Abundant life comes through perfect love of God and compassion of neighbours. A neighbour is anyone who sees a need and moves to meet it. Love for God is shown by devotion to His Word and practice of compassion to neighbours. Persons who dedicate their lives to following Jesus find rewards in service and in the kingdom of God.

God is always at work, but we cannot recognise all. May we find where God is at work in our daily living and ministry and join Him in His mission. I hope we can depend on God more and more rather than let worldly cares distract us from His mission. We have Known that judgment comes on those who reject Jesus. May we look to Jesus to find what God is like and love God with everything we are. 

I sincerely appreciate that our church members show love for our church members and neighbours in concrete ways that meet their needs. May we focus our life on God’s Word rather than social obligations and duties.

Harvest does not wait. If we cannot reap on time, it can be withered or ruined by weather. However, not just anyone can harvest this field, the selection and sending out the workers belong to God. He is the owner of the field who cares for and controls everything. God’s co-workers ask Him to send help to finish the harvest. It implies that they will accept whomever God sends, because God sets the standards and job requirements. Jesus’ disciples cannot be choosy about those whom God selects and sends. 

Jesus did not promise the task would be easy. Rather, His command placed disciples at the crossroads. Workers in God’s kingdom harvest should expect rejection. The harvest must be reaped while it is ready. The kingdom of God is near, there are ministry opportunities that call for immediate action in our daily living. The kingdom is not just something far away in space and time. It is a present reality for those who see God’s power at work.

Even at life’s crossroads, may we remember and appreciate Jesus’ promise, being His disciples and God’s co-workers, and God’s peace and blessing. God’s glory is supreme and beyond our understanding, and we must do nothing that would detract from the glory that belongs to God. I believe that we are all God’s co-workers and Jesus’ disciples who are working in His harvest. May our daily living be transformed in God’s compassion and the love of Christ.

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

Committed Followers of Christ 26-06-2022

26th June 2022 (Pentecost 3)

Sermon Title: Committed Followers of Christ  

(Luke 9:51–62) 

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim

22nd of June was Uniting Church’s 45th Anniversary. We celebrate the Union of three different denominations in Australia. Thankfully, we are still working very hard to live out the spirit of the union and reconciliation in the love of Christ and the light of God’s words. 

Before sharing today’s text, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the Lord’s Great Commission through the Gospel of Matthew 28 in relation to the United Church’s anniversary.

Jesus’ final words on earth testify the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and serve a central purpose and mission to all believers of “making disciples”. The Gospel of Matthew serves to equip us for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. 

Jesus calls us to make disciples as the body of Christ, unites us in common purpose Jesus has given us, and lets us abide in love and confidence. We are all different but come together as one as Jesus’ disciples. Furthermore, this gives us confidence as the Lord promised to be with us until the end. 

There are three participles that are subordinate to the central command to make disciples. Each of these are going, baptising, and teaching. Due to a limited amount of time, I will only share “going” today. 

 “Going” is one of the three means by which to fulfill the central command to make disciples. It is not just traveling across geographical borders, but it means crossing boundaries, and going beyond one’s comfort zone to make the gospel accessible to the lost. Going should be a part of our daily lives. Going also implies our support of people who are literally going to other cultures. We are members of team “Uniting” and parts of Lord’s team who “go” in fulfillment of the Great Commission. May our faith journey and our “goings” be accomplished with warm blessings and prayers of our congregation members. 

All the authority of Jesus goes with us and empowers us, wherever we go, baptise, and teach, as we fulfill our mandate to make disciples. The risen Christ is always with us. May we walk and join with him in fulfilling the Great Commission through making disciples of Jesus.

In the process of becoming one and uniting in Christ, may we not forget to make disciples as a common goal, not to be complacent in our comfort zones, and fulfill Christ’s Great Commission together in the love of God.

Jesus’ disciples were to make more disciples through all the nations. It is significant that Matthew ended his Gospel with one more reference to the Gentile mission, challenging the Jewish Christians to lose their prejudices and unify the church. This invites us to break down any artificial boundaries erected by our culture and differences.

As Jesus’ disciples, we do not just love God, we praise God, we worship God, and we thank God. We also follow and imitate Jesus in faith and life by walking in love.  

Regarding our Uniting Church and Leighmoor Uniting Church, the best moment is yet to come, and we are on the way. The journey sometimes can be rough, but we can move forward gradually, learning to love as Jesus loves, growing towards the fullness of Christ.

May we think daily of Jesus’ resurrection and what it means to us and obey Jesus’ command to make disciples of all communities and nations by going, baptising, and teaching. I pray that we can rely on Jesus’ promised presence and power as we make disciples together.

In Luke 9, Jesus met racial prejudice and rejection when He and the disciples were on the journey to Jerusalem passing Samaria. Samaritans refused hospitality to anyone who was headed for Jerusalem. 

Just as people of Nazareth expressed prejudice against the hometown person when Jesus opened his ministry, so the Samaritans expressed opposition as Jesus closed his public ministry and turned to Jerusalem. There are times when we experience rejection or opposition in our devotion and service, but may we walk together on the path that the Lord will lead us no matter what happens.

Prejudice and revenge grabbed the disciples, and they wanted to show how much power Jesus has or they have. The disciples had not yet learned how to concentrate on the mission of preaching the kingdom and healing the sick. They had not learned to depend on God to empower their mission. They had not learned to love all people as Jesus did. So, Jesus rebuked the judgmental disciples.

Jesus had told the disciples before they went on mission that some villages would reject them. He told them to kick the dust off their feet and go on. Jesus has shown His openness to all people who would commit themselves to his work, now turned to Jerusalem to complete his work through the predicted betrayal, death, and resurrection. Luke notes that his ultimate destiny is to be taken to heaven, but Christ’s Road to heaven led through Golgotha, Calvary, and the open tomb. 

What do we really mean when we say we will follow you wherever you go? Are people following to see miracles, be where the action is, and gain God’s blessings? Or are we following because we are devoted to the mission and ready to take up the cross? In verse 58, Jesus knew the cost. He did not have a resting place as secure as the fox’s den or the bird’s nest. He owned nothing and had no assurance of a place to sleep.

Jesus addresses the cost of picking up the mantle of discipleship in his name. The theme of passing on and picking up the prophetic work for God’s justice in the world is clear in the passages for today. Who are our spiritual friends and faith teachers who have helped us understand or grow the Christian faith? In our baptism, we are called to pick up the mantle of discipleship and move forward. Where do we experience the challenge and cost of responding to God’s call?

When a man declared his commitment to Christ, Jesus told him what this commitment meant. Jesus invited him to follow, the man hesitated because of parents. Jesus answered that commitment to him takes precedence over all commitments that earthly traditions would place on you. When he calls, you must answer here and now and follow immediately wherever he leads us. When Jesus heard another man’s declaration, he said that the call to follow is a call to follow without excuse, without delay. Jesus said, “Come. Follow. Now.” Once we respond to the call, we have a permanent job or life-long job.

Each of us is called to be God’s committed disciple and co-worker in the ministry of peace and reconciliation. May our “going” to those who are in need will happen and continue more and more in our lives. I hope that we can all be able to present the Lord’s peace and reconciliation to our family, friends, neighbours, and church family through our “going”, which is one of the essentials for making disciples. May the love of Christ abolish the unnecessary walls in our lives. I pray we’ll be confident in God’s power and be united as one in Christ.

In today’s text, Jesus demanded commitment to mission from his followers and he demonstrated that commitment to them through his own dedication to life-giving ministry, providing salvation for all on the cross. As Messiah, Jesus had to face the cross rather than seek the throne his followers expected. Committed followers of Christ are willing to surrender earthly goods and comforts to do God’s work. They value suffering for Him more than what the world values. 

However, Jesus’ followers do not automatically have God’s power to do his work without prayer and commitment. May we ask for God’s power and expect Him to do His work through us. May we follow Jesus and look for God to do his work in his cross-carrying ways rather than in the world’s power-producing ways. May we find those whom we can help in the name of Christ and spend time in prayer telling God how great we think he is. 

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

The Path to Recovery 19-06-2022

19th June 2022 (Pentecost 2)

Sermon Title: The Path to Recovery  

(1 Kings 19:1-15 & Luke 8:33–39) 

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim

In 1 Kings 19:1-15, the prophet Elijah conflicts with the prophets of the rain god, Baal. A drought holds Israel, but the fake god, Baal is not able to bring rain. Elijah and Baal’s prophets hold a public test of strength. Elijah shows God’s power over creation, calling down fire on the sacrificial altar and then killing the prophets of Baal. 

Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done. The fact that Ahab’s report was not about what God had done but about the deeds of Elijah. He had been impressed by God’s presence, but he had not been changed. Ahab the king was no closer to the Lord than before. He remained blind to spiritual reality.

Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was one of the glorious moments in Israel’s history. The Lord had revealed Himself in a dramatic way, in fire and in rain, and the people had responded in a massive confession, returning to their faith and covenant loyalty to God. However, king Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, hold Elijah responsible, and Jezebel threatens to kill him. 

Elijah tries to escape as far away as he can from Jezebel’s anger. In despair, he questions God’s call. Victory in one battle does not mean that the war is over. Even the strongest people can be driven by fear rather than being sustained by faith. There are challenges in being faithful and answering God’s call.

In despair, Elijah prays to God that he may die. When Elijah sat down in an isolated spot and exhausted in despair, he expressed his brokenness to God and wanted to resign from life itself and ministry. He was in despair at his failure even after a huge victory, and his perspective was distorted. However, God did not rebuke His despairing servant but allowed him to sleep and provided refreshment. The Lord was reminding Elijah of his past faithfulness and his mighty power through the special treatment and foods and then permitted further sleep and another provision of food.

God’s angel feeds Elijah twice, encouraging him to sleep and eat to be strengthened for the journey. He travels 40 days and nights to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain where God gave Israel the law and the covenant. 

The Lord was giving him time to himself before a significant encounter at Sinai. Elijah returns to the place where Moses encountered God, and God is with Elijah on the journey. 

God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Elijah pours out his frustrations. “I’ve tried my best. I am the only one of your prophets left. Now they want to kill me.” In Elijah’s “deep down” frustrated moment, God is present and hears him. As Elijah watches from the cave, there is great rock-splitting wind, an earthquake, and fire. But God is not in any of these. After these dramatic signs there came a gentle whisper. God’s power is shown in “a sound of sheer silence” which is translated in some Bibles as “a still, small voice.” Elijah covers his face at this holy experience. It showed that he knew God was in this voice.

God asks the question again, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” “Go,” God says, “Return.” God tells Elijah to take up the work again. He had not moved forward in his emotions or his understanding. He seemed to be stuck in his gloom. But this time the Lord sent him back into the fight against Baal. The Lord cared for him, giving sleeping, refreshments, and strength, but sent him back into the battle instead of coddling Elijah’s fear or discouragement. Sometimes the only way to overcome our discouragement is to get back into the work to which the Lord has called us.

God nourishes and sustains Elijah and speaks to him in the depths of his solitude, in the sound of silence. God cares for us and supports us even in the lowest points of our lives. May we remind ourselves that God is often much more patient with us than we are with ourselves. When Elijah was in despair, God strengthened Elijah for the work God called him to do. God is present in our times of despair. God calls and sustains us in our ministry. We need to find opportunities to listen to God in the silence.

There are times when life overwhelms us, and we despair. What questions come to us in such deep-down moments? God nourishes and sustains us when we allow quiet moments in God’s presence to heal and restore us. God sends us back to continue our discipleship in our daily lives. In God’s love, we find truth, promise, and hope. 

Mount Carmel may be a place of retreat, but the path to recovery always takes us back into the mission and ministry God has given us. Our greatest need is a new understanding of God’s purpose. The road to recovery is the way of obedience. When times of discouragement and burnout overwhelm us, the path to recovery involves a new and deeper understanding of God’s purpose. May we renew our sense of God’s person and purpose and engage again in ministry.

God was not always present in the powerful and the dramatic. He did not always work through the sensational or the overpowering. This was not to minimize his presence on Mount Carmel, but it was not God’s only way of working. There was much more to God than wind and fire. Even Elijah needed to realize God’s unlimited ways. Sometimes people want to meet God who works through a visible and noisy miracle when they are weak, but God meets us even in silence, gives us healing and strength, and makes us live by the gospel and do ministry.

In Luke 8:26–39, Jesus visits a gentile region and meets a person possessed by demons. On the way there, Jesus calmed the lake storm. Now he calms the troubled man. The crowds reacted differently than others. People who saw a healing or miracle usually gathered to see Jesus and brought more people to be healed and helped by Jesus. However, this crowd demanded that Jesus leave their region immediately due to their material losses and worldly values. They were interested in the world’s cares and riches more than human need. They expelled the most powerful and caring existence without seeking his help for any of their friends and neighbours.

The man is healed, and God is found again in the silence. The man would like to go with Jesus, but Jesus sends him to take up his discipleship in everyday life. For this man, following meant going back home and telling the fearful friends and neighbours what Jesus had done for him. The man obeyed instantly. He took the good news to a town that had expelled Jesus, telling everyone exactly what Jesus had done for him. The call to faith is a call to commitment to the mission Jesus defines for us, not a call to a task we want to do. Have we heard or experienced the mission Jesus has for us? Are we committed to testify and obey wherever Jesus leads us?

The place of solitude with God during difficulties will be the place of recovery. To follow Jesus is to testify to what he has done for us so people can see who he is and have faith in him. May we make big decisions and commitments to listen, obey, testify, and believe. Our physical and emotional condition impacts our spiritual life, but may we experience God’s touching and helping hands in the seat of restoration, gain strength again, and become people who can carry out the missions that Christ has entrusted to us.

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