September 20, 2021

Good Shepherd and the Sheep 25-04-2021

25th April 2021 Fourth Sunday of Easter
Title: Good Shepherd and the Sheep
(Scripture Readings: Psalm 23; John 10:11-18)
By Heeyoung Lim

Today we recognise the 106th Anniversary of ANZAC Day, when we honour a generation of young men from Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere who gave their lives so we can live in the freedom and peace. We need to remember the troops and veterans and their self-sacrifices.
As we know ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day is the day that we remember their loss and sacrifice of the young people who protect other people’s freedom. In this time of peace, we will remember them and pray for them and their families.
My previous church, the Korean Church of Melbourne invited Australian veterans who fought for South Korea in the Korean War about 71 years ago and their families to express our gratitude and love once a year. Five years after the end of the Second World War, more than 17,000 Australians with the UN forces served during the three-year Korean War, of which 346 were killed there. They lost their lives for others in a foreign country.
We worshipped with them together, shared special meals, gave thank you cards and gifts. Especially all children prepared the thank you cards, sang a song in front of them on the day, gave warm hugs and gifts, and expressed sincere thanks to them every year. We taught children about the history and the meaning of their sacrifices. Sadly, the number of veterans is decreased because time passes by. But we deeply appreciate their sacrifices and commitments which are unforgettable.
On the other hand, South Korean government sent face masks and COVID-19 supplies to overseas Korean War veterans in 22 countries. They showed gratitude to every single Korean War veteran who is alive by sending COVID-19 protection items and the delivered boxes contained a message that South Korea has never forgotten them. There are lots of appreciation stories. For instance, a professional Korean photographer visited and photographed worldwide of 1400 of Korean War veterans in 14 countries including Australia. The veterans receive their portraits for free from a thankful young man from the country they fought for. The young photographer was using his own expense for that, he was not looking to be compensated. However, he said that there have always been so many supporters. He believed that photos can be an important tool that can document and convey today for tomorrow. Whenever he was asked about payment from the veterans, he answered that we have a lot of debt, this is just paying it back. He said that he learned the value of freedom, freedom is not free. It has a price, and the price was the life of those veterans. They tried to make nations peaceful and served for liberty and security through their sacrifices. The photographer wants to continue this so that the next generation can also remember and appreciate the valuable sacrifices.
We are at peace wherever we stan with God, but the peace maintained and kept by someone else’s sacrifices and commitments. Our salvation has a price too; the price is Jesus’ life-giving love and sacrifice.
Jesus told us that he is the good shepherd. The definition of a shepherd’s task is to feed the sheep adequately, care when they sick, keep them gathered, and put their well-being before his own. Such model shepherding might require the laying down of one’s life, it also needs recognition and trust between sheep and shepherd.
Through the Psalm 23 we found and felt God’s presence that enables us to overcome the fear that rises in us when being confronted by death. We know the fact that the Lord is our good shepherd even when walking through the valley of death
In John 10, we hear that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus expressed himself as good shepherd. This verse shows us how the good shepherd who is not working for his own profit differs from that false shepherd who runs away from dangerous situations for himself. (10, 14)
In contrast to those who steal and abuse the sheep, Jesus is a caring shepherd who takes care of the sheep even to the “laying down his life”. The good shepherd who sacrifices his life for the sheep also relates to them in trust and intimacy; good shepherd dies for the sheep when predators appear.
The good shepherd knows his sheep in the same way the Father knows the Son; the sheep know the shepherd in the same way the Son knows the Father. The Lord talked about laying down his life for the sheep five times in eight verses. The shepherd intentionally becomes the sacrificial lamb. (18)
Jesus said that He must bring those who have not yet been brought into the one flock which is one body of Christ. (16) His death on the cross did not occur because earthly powers were stronger than the power of the heavenly Father. He willingly laid down his life for the sheep in accordance with God’s will. (17) Christ is the Word of God, the message of the self-giving love of God, who did not want the world to perish. (18) The shepherd alone decides who may enter the fold, but the voice of Christ calls out to all people.
The shepherd’s voice is key, but sometimes we go astray just like sheep. Sheep may follow the voice of a stranger, get lost and fall into valleys. Many other voices and distractions tempt us from the right path. However, our good shepherd, Jesus will never leave us, and His voice will bring us back because we belong to him. Sometimes we are getting into troubles and struggling in difficulties, but we always have opportunities to listen to the voice of our good shepherd in our daily choices. We also have chances to be faithful as the Lord’s sheep. We can say ‘No’ to some tempting voices that is not the will of God and say ‘Yes’ to the Lord because Jesus is here and there going before us and leading us.
The Good Shepherd makes the sheep feel safe, guards the sheep, provides for them, and cares for them. A true shepherd provides the sheep with a genuine shelter, but a hired hand runs away and turn the fold into a dangerous place.
Good shepherds are keeping watch over their flocks by night and seeking out the lost or those in need of being rescued. The sheep feel secure just to hear the voice of the shepherd. I hope the good shepherd’s voice will be conveyed through us to the lost and hurting.
Our good shepherd does not merely care for the sheep, but also gathers the flock continually. I pray that people who see, hear, and believe in Jesus will belong to the kingdom of God and will grow continually. God’s community needs to be open and inclusive. We need to become more like Jesus who embraced the outcast, the oppressed, and the overlooked. We are to provide a space where all are welcome so that all church members can experience the culture of the kingdom of God in our church and related faith communities.
The image of the Good Shepherd is giving us a powerful influence for us who thirst for a true relationship in a society that values individualism and secularism. Our good shepherd, Jesus takes good care of us who experience the moments of loneliness and hopelessness, He responds to our deepest fears and anxiety by offering peace and hope. Jesus is our good shepherd who willingly died on the cross to save us and he offers shelter and security to all who follow Him. Following Him means becoming more like Jesus. We can all become loving and caring good shepherds to each other. The term of good shepherd is not just related to ministers or leaders, but It is also connected to all of us.
Risen Jesus asked and said to Peter three times. “Do you love me?” Whenever Peter answered Jesus “I love you”, Jesus told him “Feed my lambs” (21:15), “Take care of my sheep” (21:16), and “Feed my sheep” (21:17). There was love and care between the good shepherd and the sheep. I hope and pray that we can demonstrate our total trust in the Lord by true loving and caring.
The Good Shepherd offers salvation and shelter for the Lord’s sheep. He will protect at any cost those followers who are intimately known to the shepherd. No one can tear us away from Jesus’ love and His shepherding. I believe that we are safe and secure when entrusting our lives to the Good Shepherd. I pray we can faithfully respond to the Lord’s shepherding by our ‘gathering’, ‘listening’, ‘caring’, and ‘blessing’.

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

To This We Are Witnesses 18-04-2021

18th April 2021
Third Sunday of Easter
Title: To This We Are Witnesses
(Scripture Readings: Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7)
By Heeyoung Lim
“Peace be with you.”
As we have seen the video, in the first part of John 3, Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer at three in the afternoon. A man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful. Peter looked straight at him when the man asked them for money. (1- 4) They were on the way to pray, but they looked and helped him first instead of passing their way.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (6) Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. (7-8) All the people saw this well-known beggar walking, jumping, and praising. No one doubted what had happened. (9) This happened at the beautiful gate. Where is our beautiful gate? I hope we can all feel the church door is “beautiful” whenever we are coming to church where we worship God together and look after each other. I look forward we can open wide the door toward the wider community and the world beautifully through our faith and lives. The physical and spiritual miracle occurred in the same man at the same time by walking, jumping, and praising in the name of Jesus.
God never asks us to give what we do not have; he expects us to give to those in need from what He has given us, and always to do it in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I hope we can thank God daily for all the great blessings we have in Christ.
When we call Jesus’ name? Luke uses “in the name of Jesus” thirty-three times in the Book of Acts. How was this man healed? How is all this possible? Because of Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him. However, using the name of Jesus is not a matter of new kind of magic, there has to be faith in the one who speaks His name.
When Peter and John were surrounded by an amazed crowd after the miracle, they said to the crowd “why do you stare at us?” (12) It was not though by our power, it was not us, it was Jesus. After healing Peter and John completely denied their own power and immediately said that all healing power came from Jesus. They proclaimed that God has glorified his servant Jesus; His name itself has made the man strong. (13, 16) Jesus has given him this perfect health through the disciple’s faith.
We also remember John the Baptist once said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). All Christian ministries need to centre on Jesus. Our service for Jesus begins and ends in Jesus’ name, but God works through His people to accomplish His Mission.
In Today’s text, Peter reminded us that people rejected the holy and righteous one, Jesus and sent Him to His death; he said “your sins may be wiped out” by repentance in faith. Acts 3:12–19 invites us not to repeat the crucifixion of Christ and leads us to repent and turn to God. Repentance refers to a change of mind, sometimes it describes turning around and walking in a different direction. They crucified the Messiah, but some of them returned to God by repentance accepting Him as their Saviour. They killed our Saviour, Jesus on the cross, but God raised him up. God wants us to be God’s people who does what is righteous.
By God’s grace, repentance brings forgiveness through Christ, and that forgiveness is available to all who call upon His name in faith. The name of Jesus makes us grow up, rinses out our sins, and renews us. The resurrection and His work of bringing new life continues to be at the heart of the church. Most importantly, we are witnesses of risen Christ and God’s work. Repenting sins can be a sign of Christians and loving others can be a mark of authentic witnesses. Obedience to God’s commands is also a mark of our love for Him.
In 1 John 3, God is righteous and loves us with a great love, and God’s children do not try to live in sin. Especially Ongoing, wilful sin is incompatible with true Christianity. True Christian experience is revealed not just in our beliefs but in our behaviour. 1 John 3:2 starts, “My dear friends, we are already God’s children”, and it says, “we know that we will be like Him when Christ returns”. This hope will make us keep ourselves holy just as Christ is holy as in verse 3. We are witnesses of Christ in the hope.
We are loved by unconditional love and redefined as nothing less than God’s children and Jesus’ witnesses. We are also adopted into the family of God even though we have more changes to undergo.
Sometimes our lives are twisted by a combination of our own sin and the effects of the sins of others, but our risen Christ gives us His peace when we are broken and imperfect. From time to tome the world does not understand us because we have been given a new identity in Jesus. On the other hand, when we look at ourselves, we know that sometimes our old identity is too strong to ignore and too powerful to escape.
We may reflect “Am I a true child of God? when we do fearless self-searching, but we are precious God’s children and Jesus’ witnesses. We may face physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties in the experience of our own brokenness, but we can have a rest on the love of God and the peace of the Lord. We need to remember that God’ saving promise is far much bigger than our vulnerability and brokenness. God’s grace is much greater than our sins or pains. God will surely restore us in His way. By grace we are the Lord’s witnesses who purified by faith, hope, and love. In hope we cling to what God is doing to us and we seek solidarity, forgiveness, and peace in our lives.
I look forward to the wonderful change that will occur when we look at Jesus and become like Him. I believe we can get encouragement, motivation, and strength from the hope of resurrection. I pray we can commit ourselves completely to following Jesus and obeying His commands. I hope we are willing to help our brothers and sisters in Christ if they are in need and if we have something to help them in the name of Jesus.
God knows our heart, and He does not condemn those who are in Christ. However, no compromise can be made with evil. I believe that we are witnesses of risen Christ. God gave us opportunities to serve the Lord and others with love and willingness. Some ministry opportunities come when we least expect them and have not planned them into our lives. But we need to be ready for any opportunity for ministry God has given us. Our age, gender, and our circumstances do not matter to serve the Lord.
I hope we can think and thank more how much the Father loves us and I pray we love one another just as Jesus has loved us. I believe God will restore us by healing, comfort, and strength, and we can please God by looking, repenting, sharing, helping, praying, and loving until the very end. May God fill us with His joy.

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

My Lord and My God 11-04-2021

11th April 2021
Second Sunday of Easter
Title: My Lord and My God
(Scripture Readings: John 20:19-31, Acts 4:32-35)
By Heeyoung Lim

The risen Christ is with us! The body of Jesus was not in the tomb, but the risen Christ has come to us. Whenever we are looking for Jesus, He comes to us wherever we are.
Jesus went back to Galilee where Jesus spent most of his time with His disciples. He returned to His betrayers. Jesus returns to us. The good news was that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but he was seen in bodily form afterwards. The risen Christ keeps coming to us, calling us as His Easter community of believers.
In today’s text, we see the followers of Jesus gathered behind locked doors full of fear, but then the risen Christ came to them. They did not come to Him; He came to them first. The risen Christ is coming to us and wanting us to live God’s ways of love, peace, and justice. We are never alone for the risen Christ will never leave us nor forsake us. We have Easter hope because Jesus has risen, and he loves us no matter what.
Who is Jesus? Our living Lord has conquered both sin and death. Our resurrected Jesus said to the troubled disciples, “Peace be with you!” when he first appeared to the group. He had promised to relieve the disciples’ grief by replacing it with joy in John 16:20; His promise has been fulfilled. Jesus offered them peace in place of fear; He showed them his hands and his side, and they knew He is Jesus. 
He also said to them, “I am sending you” and “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Jesus gave His disciples ‘Peace’, ‘mission’, and ‘the Holy Spirit’ in their times between the resurrection and the ascension. Sending disciples and giving responsibility are gifts bestowed along with the Spirit itself. Jesus has equipped us with peace and the Holy Spirit before He sends us on His mission field.
In verse 23, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” If Jesus came to take away the sin of the world (1:29), disciples would continue the work of forgiving and peace-making through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
The disciples were fearful despite what Peter and John had seen and what Mary had reported. The Lord appeared to offer them His peace which is totally different with worldly peace before they could respond. The peace Jesus gave would enable them to go out. As God sent Jesus, he sent them into the world. The locked door could not stop the resurrection body of Jesus, it was nothing to our Lord. He showed them the nail prints in his hands and the spear scar in his side. The disciples saw and met the resurrected Jesus who died now living again and standing before them. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
But Thomas who was absent then said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas doubted even though other disciples said to Thomas “We have seen the Lord!” He did not believe them. There would be mistrust between disciples.
A week later, in spite of locked doors, Jesus appeared and greeted them exactly as he had a week earlier. Jesus said again, “Peace be with you,” The Lord’s peace was related to individual’s inner peace and a community’s reconciliation at the same time; The peace within the community which needs to be one is significant. The evidence of the crucifixion continues in the resurrected body of Jesus.
Jesus did not scold Thomas or condemn his hesitation. He provided the evidence only then did He say to him, “Stop doubting and believe”. (26) Jesus gave doubting Thomas a second chance and Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” And Jesus replied to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” God has given us the chance to be blessed by our faith. The disciples rejoiced, but Thomas’ response was praise. Praise and glory be to our God. Their joy was not an end, it needed to be continued to the glory of God.
He is our Lord and our God. He is alive. Jesus is coming to us first even when we are in the darkness with grief, depression, and frustration. He is giving us His peace, new mission with the guidance of the Holy Spirit after He breaks through our locked door. He is sending us out to the world in the power of Lord’s resurrection. Jesus wants us to become the Easter community which is a peaceful and Spirit-filled church with great joy. When it comes to spiritual truth, we need to be prepared to believe what we have not seen.
We are invited to trust our risen Jesus without seeing. We can overcome our trouble and suffering in the power of our Lord’s resurrection knowing the ultimate victory is His and ours. I hope and pray the transformation of fear into joy will be happening in our lives.
We can say to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” and believe in Jesus together hoping the unity of the church in Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection is not just a one-time event, the living risen Christ is the Centre of our lives and our faith community. What does the full acknowledgement of the resurrection mean? It means taking our eyes off the empty tomb and placing them on the Lord. Let us allow the resurrected Lord to handle our hesitation to obey Him in everything.
The living risen Christ is the Centre of the church’s creed. In Acts 2:43-47 & 4:32-35, Luke emphasized the unity of the church and added a message about its generosity in chapter 4. Early Christians were clearly united in their heart and mind. They were united, unselfish, and unafraid because they were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were generous and shared everything they had.
In verse 33, with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s grace was so powerfully working in them all. Early Christians knew what God expected of them and put their possession at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Money is not evil, but 1Timothy 6:10 proclaims that the love of money is the root of all evil. Hebrew 13:5 also says, “keep your lives free from the love of money”. The love of God was clearly displayed in their sharing of possessions. That is why “there was not a needy person among them” as in verse 35.
How might our church itself be an example that encourages faith? How do we embody the message of Jesus by our lives? We can share generously what God has given us, especially to those who need help. We can move forward with love to what Jesus wants us to do by looking at our resurrected Lord and taking care of each other.
Today’s text portrays the risen Jesus in all the abundance of His grace, but many individuals and congregations are back behind closed doors in their lives. I hope we can widely open our doors for Jesus even though He can pass through the closed doors repeatedly.
John invites us to see the life Jesus has given to the world in the life of wounds and pains. The risen Christ appears to us in God’s ways; He is giving us comfort and peace in our lives. Our pain and sorrow may turn into joy in the power of the Lord’s resurrection.
Jesus revealed himself by showing His wounded but living body to His disciples and people. We are OK in Jesus even when our weakness and wounded part are revealed to our extended family of Leighmoor and others just like Jesus because Jesus will make it possible for us to continue His work of sharing peace, forgiving sins, and giving love.
I believe that the Easter miracle is already happening in our lives in the power of resurrected Christ. I am sure Jesus is looking lovingly at our church members. The risen Christ is giving us His peace, comfort, and joy. I hope and pray that we can spread the gospel with joy and share God’s love with generosity to others. The risen Christ comes to us and walks along with us each step!

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

He Has Risen 04-04-2021

4th April 2021
Easter Sunday Service
Title: He Has Risen
(Scripture Readings: Isaiah 25:6-9; Mark 16:1-8)
By Heeyoung Lim
Happy Easter! Jesus is risen.
God is praised for his wonderful deeds in many Bible verses. In Isaiah 25, the focus is moved into the future. The prophet Isaiah praised God for His future deeds which could be compared to the great history of salvation. We do not know when and how God’s will be done, but we know God has plans for us and carries them out for God’s people in perfect faithfulness.
In today’s text, Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people, a banquet that is open to all people and nations.
Verse 8 says “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” The Lord has spoken.
No longer will the nations hide themselves while mourning over the victims lost in the battle of the last days. The Lord will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. God will invite all who are left to feast joyfully. Death, the last enemy, will be conquered, it will no longer threaten the world; mourning will vanish; joy and thanksgiving will last. God is giving us reasons to be joyful. This promise was revealed in the resurrection of our Lord. God’s people can join in praise for his coming kingdom on earth, for his protection of the helpless, and for his victory over death. We can be glad and rejoice in his salvation as in verse 9.
In Mark 16, three women who were at the foot of cross wanted to anoint Jesus’ body Saturday evening, but they were on their way to the tomb just after sunrise due to darkness. (Mark 16:2) They did not expect to see him alive; The purpose of anointing was an expression and act of love and devotion.
The women had a question; “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But the stone had been moved back when the women arrived at the tomb. Mark does not tell us who moved the stone. When they looked up, they saw that the large stone had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. He said, “Don’t be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” This is good news. They were invited by the angel to see that the tomb was empty. (6)
The angel said, “go, tell his disciples and Peter.” (7) When male dominated law and culture discounted the witness of women, Jesus gave mission to the women who were coming to Jesus. The women were God’s instruments for spreading gospel, they were called to discipleship even though they failed to communicate due to their trembling and astonishment. Resurrection is the heart of Good news. We can say that Jesus has risen.
The disciples needed reassurance and encouragement during these times, especially Peter. Peter needed to know he had been forgiven and restored. John’s Gospel described how Jesus concerned and cared for His disciples. (John 21). Jesus encouraged and empowered his disciples by appearing and commissioning. Resurrected Jesus empowers us by being, praying, and commissioning to continue spreading the good news.
Jesus received Peter’s denial, but Jesus forgave him and cared for him. God’s gracious hand of forgiveness can bring us back. To do this, ‘coming to Jesus’, ‘removing stones,’ ‘forgiving others’, and ‘going and telling’ are necessary in our faith and life. We are responsible for telling the “good news” of Jesus Christ. The good news is not to hide, but to reveal and it is not to contain, but to convey.
The tomb Jesus was in on Friday was empty on Sunday. We can see His final victory in the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is the heart of the gospel. Resurrection is Good news and an actual historical event. Jesus fulfilled His gospel mission by rising from the dead.
Disbelief and hardness of heart can be stones that block us from God, it keeps God from working through the believer’s life. God has the power to “roll away” the stones that block us from living life fully. The resurrection of Jesus teaches us that in the darkest circumstances there is always hope. The hope of resurrection came from the tomb. Jesus’ death and the place of death were not the end.
We can assume that the behind the scenes from the tomb by angel’s appearance and good news. “He has risen, He is not here.” Jesus no longer stays in the tomb.
Jesus was doing during those three days in the tomb even if people were not able to see God at work. (4) This does not mean He is not working, and the emptiness does not mean nothing. The emptiness of tomb means hope and a new start.
God is not disappointed when we make a mistake, He is disappointed when we fail to believe Him. We may have doubt in our lives, but Jesus encourages us to rectify previous wrongs and begin again in the power of the resurrected Jesus, our crucified Jesus has risen.
In verse 8, “Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Jesus had already promised them what the angel describes to the women. Jesus is always a step ahead of our fearful journeys. Always waiting for us in Galilee. Always holding us together. He is guiding us back to Himself and reminding us of the calling: “Follow me.” Jesus’ resurrection renews our fellowship, binds it together instead of allowing it to break. The resurrection of Christ has the power to transform. I hope we will be transformed in the power of resurrection.
Jesus has risen! Everything has been changed from sadness to gladness, from despair to hope, and from frustration to progress. Lent is 40 days, but Easter is 50 days, and we call Easter the great fifty. We are in “the Great Fifty”. Easter is not just today; it will be continued for the next 50 days from today. I pray that the joy of the resurrected Lord will overflow into your lives for these 50 days of Easter Season.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

The Last Seven Words of Christ 02-04-2021

2nd April 2021
Good Friday Service
Title: The Last Seven Words of Christ
By Heeyoung Lim

1. Luke 23:32-35
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Forgiveness is Christ’s way in every situation of life. Jesus had proven his ability to forgive sins in his healing and salvation ministry (5:24). He had taught that forgiveness comes only to those who forgive others (6:37; 11:4) and that forgiveness has no limits (17:4). He had called for love of enemies (6:27-28). He watched those who mocked and crucified him, but he forgave and prayed for them. (34)
2. Luke 23:39-43
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (42) Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (43)
One of the criminals who hung there insulted at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” He will be with Jesus in paradise. Jesus has a place in paradise for believers, He is leading us to the Kingdom of God.
3. John 19:25-27
“Dear woman, here is your son” & “Here is your mother” (26-27)
Looking down Jesus said, “Woman, here is your son.” It means, “I am no longer your son. But then he said to the beloved disciple, “Here is your mother.” What is Jesus saying? “Mother, I’m giving you a new son. Son, I’m giving you a new mother.” Jesus was forming a new family on the cross. Jesus said to His disciples before He complete His mission on earth. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you,”
Jesus tells us on the cross at His moment of deepest grief, Jesus is calling us to live as if strangers are our brothers and sisters. From that hour the disciple took her to his own home. Church is where we are gathered with first time strangers in Jesus’ name, and called to look after brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus was telling His disciples about new family on the cross and He wanted us to love and look after each other as whole new church family.
Our families are a wonderful source of love and grace for us, but sometimes tragic stuff happens in our families. Mary suffered from the most painful moment watching her son of the cross. We may also see our suffering family members at the cross as Mary experienced before. However, we have a new family in Christ looking after each other.
4. Mark 15:33-34
 Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (34)
The darkness lasted for three hours from the time Jesus was crucified until the moment of his death. This darkness of the skies expressed the agony and grief of heaven over the death of the Son of God. The darkness at Calvary was an announcement that God’s beloved Son was giving his life for the sins of the world.
Jesus made seven key statements when He hung on the cross. Mark recorded just one, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out in agony as he bore the sins of the world and was separated from his Father for the first time. Jesus expressed the pain of abandonment by God. Yet, in all this pain Jesus just submitted to God’s will. Jesus is our Saviour who gave His life for us. Jesus fulfilled His mission through his death on the cross and separation from his Father. Jesus, the sacrificial servant, completed His mission by enduring injustice, abuse, crucifixion, and death.
5. John 19:28-29
“I am thirsty.” (28)
All the steps that brought Jesus to the pain and death were in the design of His heavenly Father. The cry I am thirsty refers to Psalm 69:21. “Enemies poisoned my food, and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar.”
If we were too much busy with difficult tasks at work and intense sports or conversations with someone, we may suddenly feel exhausted or become thirsty. Jesus went through this in a far much more intense way than the experience of any of us during those three hours of darkness on the cross. He had been forsaken by God; He had experienced the suffering even to the last breath. He felt the pain both spiritually and physically. They offered Jesus to drink, but He refused to do it at the first, He asked for a drink later. (Mt 27) He suffered from dehydration more than anyone, He tried to keep His clear mind and aware of what He was doing for people’s salvation on the cross. He knew he was about to die. He felt pain and thirst when He shed blood for six hours on the cross.
6. John 19:30
 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus gave one last cry. ‘It is all done.’ ‘It is complete.’ He has finished the work that the father had given him to do. He has loved to the very end; he has accomplished the final task. Jesus’ work is now complete. Jesus did not stop His ministry for us until it is all done, but we shamefully often hesitate or stop our love and mission. I hope we will do our mission given by God until the very end, and I pray that we can say “It is all done.” Before God.
7. Luke 23:46-49
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (46) And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 
Jesus expressed His faith and relationship to God through His last word. He breathed his last and died. Life left his body. However, the centurion praised God, he heard Jesus’ promise to the thief and his commitment of himself into the Father’s hands. Admitting that Jesus is righteous is more than a fact. It is a form of praise, of worship, for it brings glory and honor to God. This is what proper response to Jesus. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” I hope the cry of Jesus will be our daily prayer and faith confession.
We cannot treat the cross lightly because we are in the last seven words of Christ. Jesus did nothing to deserve a criminal’s death, but He died for us on the cross. We became a part of His Kingdom. Jesus taught us forgiveness is Christ’s way in our lives. I hope we can forgive others, no matter what they have done to us. We have hope in God’s hands. I hope we can take our stand on Scripture and fulfill what Jesus wants us to do. I believe that we can be sure that we have trusted Jesus and have a place in His Kingdom. I hope and pray we praise God for all He has done for us on the cross and live in expectation of the Kingdom of God and the hope of resurrection.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

It is Time to Awake and Get Up 28-03-2021

28th March 2021
Palm Sunday (Children Time) / The Sunday of Passion
Title: It Is Time to Awake and Get up
(Mark 14:1-11, 32-42)
By Heeyoung Lim

Who crucified Jesus Christ? Judas, the Jewish leaders, and Barabbas contributed to His death directly and indirectly, but the people cried out for His crucifixion. God could have prevented it from the cross, but it was not God’s way. God allowed Jesus to be crucified to die for all people, He also allowed Jesus Christ to be crucified by people who praised Jesus before. Why Jesus had to die by crucifixion? It was the most publicly humiliating way to die in those days. However, it was the only way because Jesus was the only one who could do it.
In today’s text, the religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus, but they decided to wait until the feast was over because they did not want the blame for killing Jesus and they wanted the Romans to do their dirty work. Verse 11 indicated that the religious leaders gained some unexpected help from one of Jesus’ own disciples, Judas. This may have convinced them to move ahead with their plan during the celebration of the Passover. (Mark 14:1)
Mark14 concentrates on the theme of Christ’s suffering, which is highlighted by Judas’s betrayal, Peter’s denial, and enemies’ injustice, but we see the incredible love that Jesus has for us. Jesus was about to enter the most painful time of his ministry.
Why He would be betrayed into the hands of his enemies by one of his own disciples; be forsaken by His disciples; be wrestled by being separated from his own Father in bearing the sins of all mankind. Why He would be rejected and denied by people; and face the injustice of his enemies. Why? Because Jesus “so loved the world” that he was committed to giving up his life for us. We can see the power of committed love.
While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on His head. (3)
The Gospels of Mark and Matthew do not report this woman’s name, but the Gospel of John tells us it was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 11:1-2). Mary is mentioned three times in the Gospels; each time she is at the feet of Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:31-32; 12:1-8)
Martha had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. (Luke 10:38)
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11: 32)
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3)
Mary loved Jesus and surrendered to Him.
In Mark 14 and John12, some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? They scolded her. And one of his disciples, Judas, who was later to betray Jesus, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.

In John14:6-9, Jesus said, the opportunity to help the poor would always exist, but He would not be with them much longer. He defended Mary’s actions by saying, “Leave her alone; why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me; She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” Jesus received Mary’s gift for which was a meaningful act of love and devotion. In this context, Mary’s expression toward Jesus was appropriate, the motivation for Mary’s act was love and devotion. It was a reminder of Jesus to his followers about his upcoming crucifixion and burial. (6)
In today’s text, we can see the insensitivity of the disciples in comparison to the sensitivity and great love Mary had for Jesus. Mary showed that Jesus deserves our best. The more we love Jesus, the more we will show it by what we offer to him. Jesus said, truly I tell you, “wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” What a blessing!
Jesus experienced blessing during betrayal. Regarding the betrayal, the religious leaders sealed the deal by giving Judas what he loved most, money, with the amount of thirty silver coins. (Matthew 26:15) His betrayal also was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Messiah in Zechariah 11:12-13. (“So, they paid me thirty pieces of silver.”)
We are moving onto the story of Gethsemane; Jesus was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. Mark reveals for us the complete humanity of Christ as he faced the most severe testing of his faith. The Garden of Gethsemane was one of Jesus’ favourite spots (Luke 22:39; John 18:12). He often went there to pray, but he faced his fear of his upcoming suffering by praying for strength to do his father’s will. (32)
Jesus took with him the three disciples Peter, James, and John to pray. They had accompanied him to Jairus’ house (5:37), and they had been with Jesus on the place of Transfiguration (9:2). They had been with Jesus during the best of times and the worst of times.
Jesus said to the three disciples, “Keep awake” when He was experiencing the intense emotional, psychological, and spiritual suffering. He knew what was about to happen to Him on the cross. Not only would he suffer great physical agony but he would bear all of the sins of the world. He would become the sin bearer instead of sinners; he would be forsaken by his own Father. (33) But the disciples could not do it, they could not even watch for one hour. (37) Jesus once again said to the disciples to watch and pray; You will not fall into temptation. Jesus showed the way to conquer temptation is to stay awake and to pray, but the disciples slept again.
Jesus fell to the ground because of this overwhelming task, and he asked that he take this cup from me. (35, 36) The cup refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus showed us the clear purpose of prayer in the verse 36, “yet not what I will, but what you will”. Jesus willingly placed his desires in submission to his Father’s will. After Jesus went to pray for the third time, he returned to find the disciples asleep again. He said, “are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” (41)
It was not “time for sleeping”, it was “time of praying”. It was time to go to the cross and finish His mission. Jesus is speaking to us today. “Are you still sleeping? Enough! The hour has come. Get up!”
We are in unstable places where the painful and shameful cases of dehumanization continually occurred like Roman power and crucifixion.
However, there is divine faithfulness in continuity with God’s love. Thankfully, we experience life-giving love in Jesus’ commitment to His mission, which is the restoration of humans and communities. We, every follower of Jesus, have a future and a hope because of the new covenant based on Jesus’ shed blood and the promise of his return.
How can we express our love and dedication to Jesus more in Holy Week? I hope we can do a beautiful thing to Jesus just like Mary. It is time to serve Jesus with love; It is time to awake and pray for our mission given by God; It is time to get up to go to the next stage. We can “do something” to bring glory to Jesus, and “do something” for someone we love. We can be also sustained through the prayer of “Gethsemanes” just like Jesus. I believe that God’s abundant blessings and unconditional love will be upon you always even during betrayal and hardship because the incredible love that Jesus has for us is touching us today and tomorrow.
We are called to follow Jesus Christ even to the cross; We do not need to be afraid to tell the Lord our deepest fears and frustrations. I pray we can pray for protection when feeling exhausted or weak and we will have our own Gethsemane to pray, serve, and love walking with Jesus even to the cross.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

The Hour has Come 21-03-2021

21st March 2021
Fifth Sunday in Lent)
Title: The Hour Has Come (Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 12:20-33)
God’s desire is in the sincere relationship with his people. This desire causes that God enters new covenant with them. The new covenant that God will make with His People. When his people fail to keep their part of the covenant, God restores and renews his covenant relationship with them. God will work a transformation of the heart of each believer. The Lord can heal, save, and restore even when it seems there is no remedy, no hope.
When God chooses to forgive our sins, He no longer holds our sins against us even though we have done what God is not pleased. It is possible when God relates to us in His love. God showed us the ultimate method by which he will reveal himself in redemptive history through Jesus. God will work a transformation of the heart of each believer.
In God’s new covenant everyone will be priests who can have relationship with God by a genuine experience of salvation and assurance of forgiveness. The new covenant that will be written on the hearts of the people. In this new covenant, obedience to God’s Words, and acting in accordance with God’s will, become part of our internal character. Especially Peace with God in this new covenant is essential for fellowship with Him. People of faith invest in the hidden future with long view even though it may seem foolish in the present circumstances. The birth, life, and death of Jesus are prophesied in the Old Testament and achieved in the New Testament.
In today’s text, some Greeks asked Philip “we wish to see Jesus.” Philip and Andrew told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (21-23) The hour has always been coming, but now it has come. (23) It is an hour to which his whole life has been leading, an hour in which he is to be glorified. Clearly the “hour” is the time of Jesus’ completion of His mission. It is the time of his absolute surrender to the God. Jesus was on a mission in the world because God loves the world (John 3:16). In John’s Gospel, it is not
By Heeyoung Lim
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enough just to come to Jesus or “want to see” Him. His followers are invited to come and be with Jesus regarding the “hour”. Jesus wants us to have our ears unblocked and our vision opened by Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.
He said that the seed of grain must die before it can bear fruit (24). It means that the grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die that it may produce fruit. If the grain of wheat refuses to let go and die it will remain simply a grain of wheat and will produce nothing. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (25) Even eternal life for the many comes through the sacrifice of the One. Only the seed willing to die can live and grow. Loving life is a sacrificial process in our family, church, and communities. It can be expressed as the process of love rather than the process of growth because the purposes of dying and producing fruits are love and life.
In verse 26, Jesus said, “if anyone serves me, he must follow me;
and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.” What a blessing!
In the text, now my soul is troubled. And what should I say ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Along with the time of dying, there is also a time for judgment. (27) Jesus came to this hour for this purpose. Jesus said “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
In this passage, we can also see Jesus’ emotion and willingness when he prayed that God would be glorified through his death. Then, God spoke from heaven with a promise to do what Jesus has asked.
Jesus’ ultimate concern is the glorification of the Father. Glory originates with the Father and shines through the Son upon believers. We will also share the glory of God in our lives. In fact, glory is part of our everyday lives and suffering is also part of our journey. (28) The greatest manifestation of God’s glory happened at the cross, for there God’s greatest work occurred.
Jesus told them clearly that judgment was coming, and deliverance from that judgment was faith in His work on the cross. The reference to Jesus being lifted centres not on exaltation but death. (30) The cross forms the
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centre of the gospel. By the cross, life and love are offered to Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus says the voice came not for his own sake but for theirs (v. 30); but the enemies of God never hear God’s voice (5:37). Our Lord raised the issue of the hour even when the world did not recognize Jesus because the time of death had arrived.
How should we pray in our physical, emotional, and spiritual crisis? Jesus prayed in verse 28, “Father, glorify your name.” and the dying son of man said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” The lifting up is simultaneously all three events: crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. In verse 32. There were no boundaries of race, colour, and culture in the gospel.
However, Christ is not affirming that the whole world would be saved, He is showing that all who are to be saved will be saved when they believe in Jesus. Jesus’ action is not a private action. His cross and resurrection, suffering and transformation, and life-giving love and faithful commitment were all for our salvation. Believing this, we, the followers of Jesus, can come in trust to the “hour” in which we must share.
If we are walk with Jesus in the faith of the “cross and resurrection” and “suffering and transformation” just like the grain of wheat dies, we will bear much fruit in the love of God. Throughout his journey to the cross, Jesus refused to take the worldly ways even though He has power. For instance, Jesus’ rejection of violence shows what distinguishes his way from the way of the world.
There are lots of violence, discrimination, and suppression in the world. Many people are still suffering from them. We have all endured a time of pandemic, we may not be able to avoid the darkness by ourselves. But we can cling to Jesus’ promise that He will lead toward light and life. No matter what happened, we need to trust that God will bring about life. As Christians and disciples, we need to learn to be in solidarity with those who suffer as God suffers with us.
The focus on this Sunday is Jesus’ crucifixion for the church rather than the forgiveness of individual sins. The hour has come! Throughout our journey to the cross and resurrection, I hope we remember that we are called to hold on a little longer until morning comes, until resurrection.
Where are we? Jesus said, “where I am, there will my servant be also.” Wherever Jesus is, there will we be also. Jesus is with the Father, and
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he dwells among us. He is leading his followers to eternal life as he moves toward the hour of his death (12:32-33). We will see His Glory at the cross because the hour was the time of dying for salvation. (17:24). God’s love and salvation was revealed through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
Are we living a loving life? There are purposes of bearing fruits in the falling on the ground, dying in the darkness, and growing from the deep darkness. What was the purpose of a grain of wheat falling to the ground, dying in the dark, and growing out of the hard ground in the deep darkness? Bearing Fruits. In John, today’s Scripture is the Jesus’ farewell word because this is the last time the “world” will hear Jesus’ words on the earth, and following Jesus is the path of abundant or eternal life. This is the time when the suffering of the Lord Jesus becomes the focus of the church. A week before Palm Sunday, I hope we will begin to meditate on the intense sorrow Jesus endured on His road to the cross, and I pray we will bear many fruits in Lent.
Thanks be to God! Amen!
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

Fight for our Planet 14-03-2021

FIGHT FOR OUR PLANET – Homily by Geoff Serpell
Introduction
Mothering Sunday
Today, my Friendship book of daily readings tells me, is Mothering Sunday. That is, in Britain. 140 countries celebrate Mother’s Day on various days. One lady said that “Women only make up half the population of the world today, but we gave birth to all of it!”
From the little things like comforting us when we cry, to the major things like ensuring the continuation of humans, we would all be lost without mothers and their wonderful works.
The other thing which our lives depend upon is the wonderful gift from God, that is what some call Planet A.
Are we at war with our planet?

Are we humans’ good stewards of our planet, or are we at war and destroying our livability, that is a safe habitat for ourselves, animals, and plants?
What does our Uniting Church Synod say about this?
In a report from March 2020, I quote: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that human activities have caused approximately 1 degree Centigrade of global warming above pre-industrial levels. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 o C by 2052”.
This will result in hot extremes in most inhabited regions, heavy rainfall resulting in considerable flooding and drought in some areas. There is the risk of extreme bushfires such as 2019-20. Such impacts may be irreversible with the loss of some ecosystems. We will see ice sheet instability in Antarctica and in Greenland. This will result in multi-meter rises in sea levels. Climate change will result in disproportionally higher risks for indigenous peoples, the agricultural industries and those living on islands and near the coast.
In February 2021, The Uniting church Synod confirmed its concern and spelt out the harmful effects of natural gas, being a fossil fuel, and that Australia is the largest producer and exporter of natural gas. The latest analyses make the case again for governments, businesses and communities taking action to limit gas emissions to constrain the global average temperature increase to 1.5 o C.
You may recollect the tragic scene along the Darling river in the west of NSW where around Menindie during their recent drought, about 1 million fish died and drinking water for the town had to be trucked 600 km from Adelaide.
It was reported on March 4 in ‘The Age’, where an update of Australia’s official list of extinct and threatened species shows the nation has increased its share of the world’s extinct mammals from 34 to 38 per cent. Since colonization about 100 of Australia’s unique flora and fauna species have been wiped out. Needed is protection and conservation to include the ecosystems on which the threatened species depend.
In ‘The Age’ on 6 March, it was reported that Vic Forests is to allow logging in 20 designated areas around Snobs Creek, which is about 20 minutes driving south from Eildon. Pollution in the creek is expected to threaten the viability of the trout hatchery.
What are we doing about all this?
At the Uniting Church at Brunswick, they in 2019, declared a Climate Emergency. That church recognized that we are in a state of climate crisis that requires urgent action for climate justice by all levels of government, business, the community, as well as by individuals.
Brunswick [BUC]made a climate action commitment which included:
Each member chooses a personal action, caring for God’s creation and ensure it remains healthy for future generations.
Reflect on your household carbon footprint. This is made up of your energy use, travel, eating, and consumption habits, the efficiency of your household appliances, and where your financial investments are.
The ABC TV program “Fight for Planet A” has a “carbon Counter” to help reduce your carbon footprint. There are many child-friendly and fun challenges here too. https://fightforplaneta.abc.net.au/carboncounter I have available for loan the book of the same name written by Craig Reucassel. Please form a queue at the end of the service.
It is pointed out that our enemy is carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide increasing in our atmosphere. This acts as a blanket in the air and the gases combine to heat up our world. His book covers in detail, the problems, energy issues, transport including electric cars and buses, food issues, like how beef cattle have serious flatulence issues. Reucassel has guided many schools where children are shown how to sort refuse/garbage into various categories with a huge reduction in land fill items. Plastic is number one enemy for the environment where plastic straws, coffee cups which are not reusable and other plastics can find their way into the sea, ingested by fish and in turn eaten by humans. He is also into electric cars whereas governments are not supporting this or else taxing the electric cars extra tax.
Buying “Green energy” is encouraged. Most power companies give you an option to pay a little more on your bill and they arrange to offset the effect of power used generated by fossil fuels by planting trees.
Write your actions on a Climate Action Commitment sheet. On my family list would be the adding of solar panels and the planting of 200 seedlings a year on a conservation property out of town
At the 36th Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Pope Francis made the call to care for creation and to reconcile our relationship with God and between one another.
What was called an Ecological Examen [that is an examination of conscience] asked each of us to reflect on our personal relationship with creation, to acknowledge and amend our ways and to promote ecological justice in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.
This Examen is a tool for prayer, reflection, and action as individuals in our home, parish, school, university, or community to deepen our call to care for creation and the most vulnerable. We must care more for our common home, Planet A.
Please ask yourself some of the following questions: –
Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?
Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?
What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation?
How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?
Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?
How can I be more conscious of the impacts of our demand for energy, be it increased carbon emissions from coal. Oil and gas, increased deforestation, or a reduction in access to clean water.
In what ways may I live more simply?
Let us pray: –
Lord, sometimes the world seems to threaten,
I want to curl up in my corner,
And forget everything. Everybody.
The action out there is tough,
I would rather be a friend to all.
But somehow, I am afraid of my own inadequacy.
Lord remind me, when I flex my muscles, and clench my fists, that only the weapon that really guards me is love.
It is only through love, opening myself to others, believing in them, caring for them, this is where I need help today Lord, starting with today. Amen

Worshipping God and Coming to Jesus 07-03-2021

7th March 2021 (The Third Sunday in Lent)
Title: Worshipping God & Coming to Jesus
(Exodus 20:1-17; John 2:13-22) 
 By Heeyoung Lim
Today’s first reading starts “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
In the Book of Exodus, we find the story of the people who led by God out of slavery in Egypt into a new promised land. God gave them ten commandments, and the divine Law was revealed through Moses. It reminds us that the Lord is our God, those are not just commandments, but the gifts of God’s grace that lead to the true life.
The Ten Commandments demonstrate human weaknesses and our inability to follow God completely, but it is relational: The first four deal with our relationship with God, and the rest of six focus on our relationships with people. It is not an earthly way, but the divine way that newly understands, truly saves, and frees the world and people. God’s justice and His abundant love always coexist in our lives.
A theologian, Calvin said, “the Commandments are showing us how we are to live before God and with neighbour, they play a vital, positive role in Christian life.” The commandments light our way and show us how we should live as people who have already been freely given God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
We can appreciate what God has done to provide our salvation and we can take joy in His love for us. The love of God for salvation has been revealed through Jesus.
Last Sunday’s text focused on “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?” Today’s text more focuses on “What does it mean to be the church of Jesus?”
John 2:13-22 follows Jesus’ first sign in Cana, where he turned water into wine at his mother’s request.
In the first half of John 2, at the wedding feast people saw a sign of glory, joy, and calling, it indicates Christ’s creative power to transform, Christ’s ability to turn humiliation into celebrations, and His commitment to God’s purposes and timing.
In today’s text, we see a sign of anger, power, and authority at Jerusalem, it shows Christ’s attitude when he sees what has happened at the temple, Christ’s action to the moneychangers in cleansing the temple, and His prophecy of the resurrection.
Jews travelled to Jerusalem early to purify themselves for Passover as the season of Lent helps Christians prepare for Easter. The feast included the eating of the Passover Lamb which commemorated the passing of death over the Israelites before their departure from Egypt.
Jesus went to Jerusalem when liberation and rescue from slavery being celebrated at the beginning of His ministry in the gospel of John. However, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke the similar incident occurred in Jesus’ final journey just before His crucifixion.
The merchandise described in verse 14 was required for sacrifices. Worshipers had travelled from great distances, and the availability of sacrificial animals was essential to temple worship. They gathered in a holy place remembering God’s deliverance, but the primary purpose of seeking God’s glory through rituals and repentance was forgotten, and the holy place was transformed into a commercial place.
Jesus went into a rage, He chased out the animals, sent the merchants after them. He “poured out the coins” and turned over tables. He commanded the dove-sellers: “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 
Worship is not commercial activity; it is connecting with the Father through Jesus Christ. It cannot be relegated to a building like the temple. Today’s text leads us to true worship, it makes us to concentrate on faith more than format in worship.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24)
As in verse 23, God is seeking such people to worship him, He is receiving our worship when we worship Him in spirit and truth. Jesus is the centre of worship, and his involvement is in our lives. Coming to Jesus is not through formality, but through faith.
Jesus is our Lord. How do we make sure our faith is real before God? How can we obey completely to the Lord? We can do it through being true worshippers and believers. We should not limit worship to a building, and we need to remember the temple or church is the Father’s house where people pray. Worshipping God and coming to Jesus are relational and essential in our lives.
Jesus’ response to the request of Jew was “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews misunderstood and took His words literally as a reference to the temple building, even the disciples did not understand Jesus’ words until after the resurrection. (2:22)
Jesus is not speaking of the physical temple but of his own body here. People will seek to destroy him, but the cross will not be the end, for Jesus will rise from the dead.
The temple was the meeting place between God and His people, it was a place where human life and divine blessing met. In John’s Gospel, the body of Jesus is the new “holy place”, Jesus himself is the presence of God.
Jesus stands as our saviour welcoming all people to enter the kingdom of God through the crucifixion and resurrection. His love broke all barriers and transcended all obstacles.
I believe our church as the body of the Christ becomes God’s house when we come to Jesus together. We can think about “how Jesus has revealed his glory” in us, we can do whatever Jesus tells us.
Jesus’ act in cleansing the temple in the past raises the reformative thinking on “the cleansing of the church”. The reform of the church is always to be in accordance with the living Scripture, the witness to Christ. If we live by God’s words, then we will enjoy a good fulfilling life.
I hope we need to respond with reflection and faith as true worshippers and believers both individually and collectively. During Lent we are reminded that the story of Jesus culminates at the cross but does not end there.
“What does it mean to be the church of Jesus?” I believe we can be the church of Jesus when we are in God’s house as a part of the body of Christ. The Ten Commandments are God’s gracious gifts for God’s people, and the new commandment given by Jesus is a thankful blessing. Jesus told us “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Let us live these words every day.
I hope we can love each other as Jesus has loved us, and I pray we can glorify God by remembering God’s love, worshipping God, coming to Jesus, and doing whatever Jesus tells us as the church of Jesus.
Thanks be to God! Amen!
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

God’s Covenant and Good News 21-02-2021

21st February 2021
The First Sunday in Lent
Title: God’s Covenant & Good News
(Genesis 9:8-17; Mark 1:12-15)
By Heeyoung Lim 

We are thankful to God that we could hear the good news and hopeful messages, but we live in the flood of negative stories such as corruption, violence, greed, and so on from all around the world.
Today’s text is a story of deliverance and new beginnings, but it contains painful process too.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
What is the most surprising about the story of Noah and the flood is not that God decided to remove people from the earth. Today’s story is more about God’s Covenant with Noah and God’s promise for people rather than eradication. God cleaned the sinful world and started it again with the survivors on the ark. He saved the world through righteous Noah and his family. God’s covenant contains a story of deliverance and of relationship with God. (9:17)
God directed Noah, the only one who found favour with the Lord, to build an ark so that he and his family and some of the animals might escape the punishing flood.
Noah continually obeyed God and waited for building the ark for about one hundred years (Bible does not say the exact years), arriving of the floodwaters for seven days, raining for forty days and forty nights, rising water for one hundred fifty days, decreasing waters from the Ararat Mountain for about three months, waiting to be dried up over the earth for forty days, sending out dove three times for seven days and seven more days, removing the ark’s hatch and walking down from the ark for another waiting time.
In the meantime, Noah’s long-time faithful obedience have been done just as God commanded Noah. We know obedience should be persistent, not one-off. I hope faithful obedience in accordance with God’s words will be shown in the rest of our lives.
God is gracious, merciful, and slow to anger as Scripture often attests. God designed mankind and the animals to live on the dry land of the earth, so once again He provided new environment for people.
We are in between God’s love and righteousness. God alone has the right to judge and destroy with His righteousness, and He surrenders the divine privilege for people’s salvation with His love in His covenant. The covenant was made with “righteous” Noah and would continue with his descendants and every living creature on earth. (16) This was multi-generational, and the ark of Noah was God’s tool of salvation.
The sign of the covenant was the rainbow that forms in the clouds, especially after a rain. It would be a sign that would bring remembrance of God’s covenant. The covenant was what God promised to do and the promise was that God would not flood the earth again. (9:12-17)
In the light of God’s rainbow promise, new start and reconciliation may blossom and bear fruits, if we can reflect the meaning of rainbow in our lives and our faith communities.
This passage invites us to reconsider our relationships with each other and all creation. Our new journey begins in Lent, passes through the passion and the cross, and ends up on the resurrection.
In Mark 1, something new has begun from the loneliness of God’s servant in wilderness. After his baptism Jesus at once went into the wilderness. Mark says the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness. Mark used the word “sent” while Matthew used the term “led”. Probably servants are “sent” or “commanded to go” rather than “led”.
The sacrificial servant is tested by Satan in his final preparation for fulfilling his mission. Mark uses the term Satan as an adversary when the other Gospel writers use the word Devil as an accuser.
Mark does not present the testing of Jesus in detail as the other Gospel writers do. The description about the testing from Mark is brief, and there is no mention about the victory over Satan. This seems to indicate that being tested by Satan is not limited to this one experience in the desert, it looks to imply that it will be continued on Jesus’ entire journey and ministry. (12,13) It is better to translate “being tested” rather than “being tempted” here. His testing may have served as preparation and empowerment for ministry.
Mark is telling about the mighty works of the sacrificial servant, and it simply informs us that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days which are symbolic. They recall the experiences of Moses (Exod. 24) and Elijah (1 Kgs.19) in the desert. They also remind us of the forty years of wandering Israel in the wilderness. Only Mark mentions the wild animals and angels. It demonstrates Jesus’ wilderness experience and God’s protection from dangerous animals.
Jesus might have been in the sense of danger, isolation, and distance from normal environment that surrounds him in the wilderness. The son of God might be in a highly dangerous situation, and He was exposed to demonic power too. But there were divine care and angelic protection in the wilderness.
Mark 1 can be related to Isaiah 35, which promises a highway or a holy way for God’s people to travel.
“And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness.” (Isaiah 35:8) & “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (10)
We can imagine the picture of the kingdom of God through the verse “The wolf shall live with the lamb…” in Isaiah 11. God makes our way safe, for no dangerous animals are there and here. We can lie down in safety and experience peace in God’s hands even in our tough times.
Isaiah provides many references for Mark 1. Jesus is the servant sent by God as promised, and the prophecy shows a deeper sense of what God’s kingdom may be. Isaiah also connects the one who brings good news with the proclamation about “God’s reign”
Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee which is the northern province by proclaiming the good news of God, and Mark concentrated on the work of the servant. This good news is the gospel that brings forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. Now they not only hear the good news but also encounter Jesus who is able to deliver it. The purposes of God’s action were bringing redemption and restoration to His people through his servant, Jesus.
What is our urgency? What is our priority? Jesus’ first message was that the kingdom of God is near, and the only way into that kingdom of God is to repent and believe. We can enter the kingdom of God through the “repentance” from our sinfulness and “faith” in the good news. Jesus announced that the time has been made full, and God’s rule has come near. He was presenting an urgency about the nearness of God’s kingdom. (15)
Jesus started His ministry of sacrifice for salvation by preaching, teaching, and healing. We can trust in Good News because God is always faithful to do what He has promised. We need to consistently repent and confess our sins so that God can work in and through us. We can also declare that we believe in Jesus in every day of our lives, and we can appreciate that Jesus is with us when we are in our wilderness. Our desert of life would be a place of being tested as Jesus was tested in the wilderness, but God will protect, preserve, and provide for us during our “desert times”. I hope we can rejoice that God will continually use all our experiences to prepare us to be more like Jesus.
We are in Lent, we will win over the powers of chaos and destruction because of the victories, and harmony will come to earth through Jesus. Where are we? I believe that we are sent by God into a peaceful highway and a holy land, and I hope everlasting joy will be upon us. We can respond to God by repentance and faith even though we are still in the dangerous environment because God protects and makes us safe.
Thankfully, we are living in the reign of God, but we are sometimes in a risky life and ministry. We sometimes feel life is tough and we are weak, but God will give us strength for the reign of God and use us for spreading Good News.
God’s salvation and promise are for all those who repent and follow Jesus into God’s rule. During Lent, we can focus our own attention on the kingdom of God that Jesus bears among us. Jesus challenges us “Let anyone with ears to listen to God’s words obediently until the very end.”, and Jesus invites us “Let anyone with eyes to look at Jesus all the time even when we have difficulties.” I hope and pray we can glorify God together in God’s covenant and Good news by sincere appreciation and faithful obedience.
Thanks be to God! Amen!
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)