August 9, 2022

Open Invitation & One More Chance 20-03-2022

20th March 2022 (Lent 3)

Title: Open Invitation & One More Chance
(Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55:1-9 & Luke 13:1-9)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim

In Isaiah 55, God calls people to return to Him and find comfort, peace, and compassion in his eternal covenant of blessing. The fruit God’s word produces is the fruit He plans. People cannot put conditions on God’s word and make him act the way they think. They must be willing to be a part of His plan. (6)

The goodness of God invites all to its feast, opens hearts to reconciliation, gives healing, and brings second chances. Do we feel its grace, seek healing, and turn to God with deep belonging?

Both the book of Isaiah and the Season of Lent are about journeys. Loss of home and temple to a powerful army and being carried into exile had devastated Israel’s faith. Isaiah offers the hope of a journey home to Jerusalem for the exiles in Babylon. Lent recalls the journey made by Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem and the cross. Both journeys rely on radical trust in God. Both Isaiah and Luke anticipate a new thing that will be done by God and bring deliverance. 

The wisdom tradition in Judaism focuses on ways to live that open a person to the goodness of God. God’s grace provides the foundation for that wisdom. Thus, Isaiah 55 depicts such wisdom in the image of a feast that is free to all who seek its goodness.

Today’s text testifies key elements of God’s character. God is generous and gracious. The invitation to this table and its gifts is open to all and without cost. God is near and does not hide from us. Verse 6 assures us that the Holy One can be found, but God remains mysterious. God’s love, mercy, and grace far exceed our ability to imagine and control. We are called to the feast of such gracious relationships.

The expectation of our response in faith to such an invitation is revealed in the imperative verbs of this text: Listen. Come. See. Seek. Forsake. Return. The free and open invitation to God’s grace beckons us to these responses, which do not earn the grace offered, but rather live out its call. This theme of call and response also links Isaiah once more with Lent. For Christian discipleship also consists of trust: trust that embraces God’s graces and is lived out in the actions of our lives. In Isaiah, as in the gospels, God makes the first move. The invitation to table, to journey, and to trust is offered freely. Today’s readings invite us to listen and seek, to come and see, to forsake and return. God promises a restoration and renewal beyond our previous condition. While we may not be able to see the possibility or understand the way, God’s word will accomplish its purpose.

In accordance with today’s gospel reading, dedication to God’s mission begins with repentance from sin for every person. In Luke 13:2-3, In commenting on the death of the Galileans in the temple and the eighteen people at Siloam, Jesus raises the connection between sin and suffering. “Is this punishment for sin? Do persecution and death prove the victim to be a greater sinner than those who do not suffer?” In 13:4-5, “when eighteen people died in an accident on the tower there, were these the worst sinners in Jerusalem, punished for their horrible sin?” Jesus clearly rejects that suffering is a punishment for sin. He tells them, “Of course not!” Jesus firmly refutes any suggestion that the victims were being punished. When their interpretation about two disasters was entirely wrong, Jesus did not want them to create a hierarchy of sin and make others greater sinners than ourselves. Everyone has sinned, and all deserve to die, but Jesus’ invitation for salvation is open to all people.

The expressions for sin in verse 2 and 4 differ in their native meaning. One means that we have done something that has been off target, while the other means that we have not done what we all owe. In one sense we are all in debt to life. We came into it at the peril of someone else’ s life, and we would never have survived without the care of those who loved us. Jesus called on his followers for total dedication, and he demonstrated this to them in Jerusalem. 

In 13:6-9, the warning concludes with a parable about a fig tree given one last year to be productive. A man went out to his vineyard to get figs to eat. He found a tree but no figs. Three years looking for figs on the tree, but never any figs. “Cut it down. It’s taking up valuable space and soil. Plant something productive there.”

Jesus himself could be seen as the vineyard-owner. He has been coming to the Lord’s garden, seeking the fruit through his ministry. Maybe Jesus is the gardener too, the servant who is now trying to dig around and put on manure, to inject life and health into the old plant before everything is over. “One more chance, please,” begged the man who kept the vineyard and had come to love his trees. “Let me try everything possible for this one year. If we have no success, then you can cut it down.”

Luke 13:1–9 focuses on Jesus’ call to return to God. That call itself trusts God will be open to such turning and be gracious in response. The patience of the gardener in the passage’s closing parable speaks to the character of God’s goodness. Such goodness is revealed not only in attitude, but also in action. 

God’s grace takes form in God’s actions. During the Season of Lent, we reflect on how God acts for our good. God invites us to open ourselves to the sound and sight, and to the presence and call of God’s generous goodness all around us and within us. Why would God offer such an open invitation to all? As we continue in our spiritual journey during the Season of Lent, in what ways might we and our church share these gifts that God offers to us and to all.

We need to return to God and follow Jesus here and now. I hope we do not postpone our repentance of our sin or our mission for the Lord until tomorrow, since we do not know our life span and when Christ will come again. We have only a limited time to repent or do missional work for the Lord, so we need to do so today. The kingdom of God may appear small on the earth in our eyes, but it is growing quietly and surely.

May we have confidence that God is at work growing his kingdom even when we cannot see much evidence of it. We believe in Jesus’ death as the way to salvation. Trust is possible because of God’s goodness and love. I believe that we can enter the kingdom of God by believing in Jesus, listening to God’s Word, and practicing it, not by maintaining religious tradition.

We have received the most precious invitation for salvation and got another chance that we can get beautiful fruits through Jesus’ word and cross. God’s grace has given us another chance. May we experience God’s abundant love grounded in receiving God’s grace and help.

I pray that the Lord’s joy and peace will fill our hearts even during the season of Lent. Romans 5:8 says, “While we still were sinners Christ died for us”. Jesus is present again and again wherever anyone will allow Him to come to life. May we respond to Jesus’ invitation and calling by bearing beautiful fruits. I pray that all of us can repent, turn from sin, and turn toward God in obedience and dedication.

God loves us and is eager and ready to bless us. During this Lenten season, may we first focus on being with Jesus, spending time with Him, and praising the Lord to please God. I also pray that everyone around us will be drawn to the joy and glory of God through our beautiful fruits.  

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

Relying on Scripture & Scripture & Experiencing Jesus 06-03-2022

6th March 2022 (Lent1)

Title: Relying on Scripture & Experiencing Jesus (Scripture Readings: Romans 10:8-13 & Luke 4:1-13)

By Heeyoung Lim

Romans 10:8 tells us, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” Verses 9-11 deal with the word of faith. The word of faith is a message which is a compressed summary of the gospel. It is the message that a person must receive to become a Christian. What the heart believes, the mouth confesses. If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. We often think of the heart as the seat of emotions, but it refers to the “seat physical, spiritual, and mental life” (Danker); in short, the whole, integrated self.

Verse 12 claims there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, but there are many people who put exclusive clauses into their faith and life. Verse 13 tells us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Anyone who believes and confesses Christ can be saved. The gospel must be sent and proclaimed for people to be saved. “All” are included; “no one” is excluded. No one is hopeless. If one confesses, believes, and trusts, one can be transformed by a spiritual renewal.

Paul announces that the transforming word of salvation is near us, even in us (8). Verses 12 -13 declare that if we call upon the Lord, we will be saved from our sin. If, with our entire beings, we confess and believe, we will no longer be shamed by the residue of our sin, but rather will be enlivened, forgiven, renewed, and enriched. Furthermore, the whole world is invited to join in being raised from the ashes of sin into the radiant presence of God. God’s grace is more persistent than obstinacy and disobedience. To experience God’s saving presence, we must believe in our hearts and confess with our lips. A bounty of spiritual giftsaccompanies God’s presence. All this is of God as an act of grace.

In Luke 4:1–13, when we meet Jesus in the wilderness, we find ourselves in the desert and learn from Jesus’ experience whom to trust. In such wilderness places we can choose whom to serve and equip with God’s word. May we choose wisely in Christ and equip with His word.

After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness. There Satan tempted Him to reject the Father’s plan for his ministry. Jesus passed earthly testing by the devil triumphing over Satan’s

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temptations. His first stop was the desert, a place of isolation and desolation. Jesus followed the Spirit in faith. The stay proved long and arduous, forty days without family, friends, fellowship, or food. Only a devil ventured into the desert with Jesus. Jesus faced the tempting adversary for 40 days with no physical resources. He had to depend on spiritual strength.

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, but he was hungry for food. The first test was about serving ourselves, the second test was about serving the devil, and the third test was about making God serve us. The devil’s challenges to Jesus are not to do bad things. The first, to turn a stone into a loaf of bread, would relieve his hunger after the long fast. Bread is good, but not sufficient to do Jesus’ mission. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” All Jesus’ answers start “It is written or said.” He said to the devil’s second test, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” However, the devil used God’s word at the third test, and it starts “It is written.” Satan just twisted God’s word, omitted some part of Psalm 91, and used it differently. Jesus answered to the devil’s twisted word, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Jesus showed that worship belongs to God and overcame that crisis with the Word of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Before the temptations, Jesus fasted to devote to God’s work and His presence rather than devote time to satisfying His personal needs. Ministry and devotion took top priority over physical hunger and self- satisfaction. Jesus’ time in the wilderness is a time of testing. Facing the devil is certainly the time to face God as intensely as possible at the same time. Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness and disobeyed God, but Jesus stayed forty days in the wilderness in complete obedience to God.

Verse 13 tells us, “When the devil had finished all this temptation, he left him until an opportune time.” When it comes to demon timing, Satan is not constantly on the job with us. He comes and goes. He strikes when we are most vulnerable. Then he goes on to other pursuits. However, the devil’s continued temptation is fruitless against a person who has been strengthened by previous rejections of temptation. The devil tempts all of God’s people, but Scripture is the best weapon against temptation. God wants to give them experience in relying on Scripture and experiencing Him rather than on human qualifications, methods, and abilities.

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Jesus’ responses show His faithfulness to God and set the stage for His ministry and sacrifice. His obedience accompanies persecution, misunderstanding, and the cross. Many followers of Jesus wanted Him to free Israel, to restore an earthly kingdom marked by honour and glory. It would have required Him to say no to the salvation and love for people that are the marks of his death and resurrection. To say yes to God, the cross and suffering were required to Jesus.

However, Jesus is not separated from God’s love, and the Holy Spirit fills Him, even in the moment of encounter with the devil. The Holy Spirit was with Jesus all the way from the trial period in the wilderness to the moment it ended. The experience Jesus was able to overcome temptation was not a one-time event, but a permanent relationship with God and fullness in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives direction in all ministries for God.

The Word of our salvation is announced in the silence of searching and longing hearts, but it is so powerful. The Word of Christ is beyond our hearing and our speaking, but it needs to be proclaimed through our words and deeds. May we focus on Jesus and await Easter joy during Lent. By grace the Word is heard and new life arises. Sometimes, darkness clouds our lives, but may the radiant brightness of the resurrection of new life in Christ replace our suffering.

We are in Lent. May we pray for God’s wisdom in recognizing the devil’s temptations. We do not need to worry about it, “Because Jesus himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” as in Hebrew 2:18. May we read and memorize Scripture so that we will have it as a resource to use against temptation and trial. I hope that we can review our daily ways of living to be sure we are worshiping God and Him alone. May we ask God to show us how to carry out His ministry in our lives.

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

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Listen to Him. 27-02-2022

27th February 2022 (Transfiguration of Jesus)

Title: Listen to Him
(Scripture Readings: Exodus 34:29–35 & Luke 9:28–36)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim

Moses obeyed God’s command to climb the mountain, where he would receive further directions from God. Once there, the Lord came down in the cloud, passed by Moses, and proclaimed His name, the LORD. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. While God wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets, Moses kept his place. Moses did not eat bread or drink water for a long time to receive God’s word, but God filled his body and mind with His word. As he descended from the mountain, his face glowed.

No doubt Moses gained encouragement just speaking with God face-to-face. But Moses was much more encouraged when he confirmed that God is personal rather than impersonal like false deities of surrounding nations. Moses’ new discovery about God he served has been updated through God’s words and encounter with Him. Equipped with this new discovery of the knowledge of God, Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. Moses wanted to go forth with the presence of the covenant God, who demonstrated His love by forgiving their sins and chose them as his inheritance. Moses felt God’s presence.

Moses’ face shines with the reflected glory of God after receiving the Ten Commandments. He wears a veil when he delivers the commandments to the people of Israel because this radiance frightens them. Moses’ direct encounter with Yahweh caused his face to become radiant, and the people withdrew from him in fear. But Moses calmed them and did put on a veil when he spoke with them after being in God’s presence. 

But when he entered God’s presence, he did not have a veil. He experienced God’s glory without a veil, and the beholding of God’s glory became a glorious privilege that new believers would enjoy. May we be blessed people who spend time with God, seek God’s presence, and see and enjoy God’s glory.

As a theologian Karl Barth reminds us, “the one who makes us radiant. We ourselves cannot put on bright faces. But neither can we prevent them from shining. Looking up to him, our faces shine.” The glow comes from time alone with God. Moses and the people were able to change from fear and misunderstanding to acceptance and cooperation through God’s word. 

In Christ, may we reform our spiritual life through communication and willingness to change. I believe that it will encourage trust and enable ways of being accountable to the Holy One and to one another. Just as God was at work in leading Israel through the wilderness after the exodus, God is present in and working through Jesus.

Jesus took his three closest followers with him up a mountain. Peter, John, and James witness Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountaintop. Jesus turned aside to pray and taught prayer by example. As Jesus is praying, Moses and the prophet Elijah appear with him. While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (29) As Jesus was transformed, he was joined by Moses and Elijah, also in great splendour. This is a vibrant revelation of God’s power in Christ. God’s glory and light shine in Jesus’ transfiguration.

The disciples almost missed the greatest moment of revelation in Jesus’ earthly ministry prior to the cross. While Moses and Elijah appear at the mountaintop, Peter, John, and James find themselves overwhelmed with sleep. Eventually, they awoke and saw clearly that Jesus belonged in the company of the two. Peter suggests that they build three booths, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Luke notes that Peter suggested but really did not understand its full point. Commitment to Jesus is not to build a sacred place. It is related to a mission that never lets a follower remain in one place. It is not about building tabernacles; it is about following Jesus to the cross.

As Peter is speaking, a fog covers them. The transfiguration ends as the disciples hear the divine voice from the cloud. A cloud led the disciples away from the Mount of Transfiguration and to Mount Calvary. The cloud enclosed the disciples so they could no longer see the glory but could be assured that God was present among them. They are terrified when a voice from the cloud announces that Jesus is the chosen one and commands the disciples to listen to Him. (35) When the fog lifts, Jesus is alone again with the disciples. 

How are we hearing God’s powerful and comforting message into foggy and confusing times? How can we “listen to Him” and invite others to do the same? What do we hear in these foggy times? They saw His glory, and Jesus had said he would return in glory. Later he would enter his glory after his suffering on the cross. This is glory that belongs to the heavenly realm. 

Thus, the three disciples got a preview of the reigning King before He fully entered his glory. Jesus completes God’s plan of redemption and salvation by being the suffering servant. To do this, Jesus had to face the cross rather than seek the throne his followers expected. God’s presence offers us a glimpse of the resurrection promise.

What was spoken to Jesus at the river of baptism is now proclaimed on the mountaintop of transfiguration, “This is my Son, the Chosen; listen to Him. What voices do we need to block out if we are to listen to the Son? To what voices should we listen instead? What about the voices of those in trouble or distress, voices that transform us from the status of complacence? If we listen to Jesus, what grace might we encounter that we cannot now imagine? Commitment to God means listening to His Son. 

In verse 36, when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. Jesus’ followers do not automatically have God’s power to do His work without prayer and commitment. We can be encouraged by the disciples’ faithful-ness to be present with Jesus. While being formed in the presence of Christ at the glorious transfiguration event, and they became one with Him and His mission in the world. May we go and do likewise.

Transfiguration Sunday provides an opportunity to recall those times when we encounter Holy Mystery. Do we have mountaintop experiences that transformed our lives? Where is our mountaintop? It can be all different to everyone. God’s presence is subtle and comes to us in different ways even on a daily basis. How can we help others recognize the presence of God and His glory in their lives? God’s grace shines into our lives.

It is time to remember Jesus’ transfiguration and our calling to be followers of Christ. We pause on this day to celebrate and hold within us the presence of Holy Mystery that will empower us for the journey into Lent. May we look for God to do His work in his cross-carrying ways rather than in the world’s fame and power-producing ways. May we live by walking with God in the love and grace of Christ and face the glory of the Lord with joy.

PRAYER FOR TRANSFIGURATION  

Oh Lord,

You call us to go to the mountain top with you

And we follow, not quite sure of what is to happen,

but we like mountain tops,

we like the view from up here,

we like mountain top experiences.

Lord, sometimes we need mountain top experiences with you

when our days are dark and dreary,

when our heart, are heavy,

when the valleys seem more depressing than ever.

Lord, may this mountain top experience

fill our hearts with your light,

may we be filled with your love,

may we be filled with hope.

Lord, just as Moses and your disciples

were changed by their experiences

we too are changed and transformed

into the image of Christ by your mercy.

Lord, may we have unveiled faces

that reflect your love, your hope, and your light.

Written by Rev Abi and posted on Rev Gal Blog Pals.

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

Living and Loving as Disciples 20-02-2022

20th February 2022 (Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany)

Title: Living and Loving as Disciples
(Scripture Readings: Genesis 45:3–11, 15 & Luke 6:27–38)

                                                                                  By Heeyoung Lim

The urgent pleas by Judah on behalf of Benjamin and his father caused Joseph to move on emotionally. Joseph said to them, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living? I am the one you sold into Egypt.” In an act filled with great emotion, Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers. Joseph wanted his brothers to know who he was. His brothers were terrified at his presence because of their brutal treatment of him. However, Joseph said nothing about his treatment by his brothers twenty-two years before. 

Joseph reframes their experience by seeing the God of liberation at work. He realized that it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of them. He stated four times that God was behind the events of his life. Joseph also revealed to his brothers the knowledge he had that the present famine would last for another five years. 

Joseph believed that God had overruled their evil plan to guarantee that the family of Israel would survive. He urged them to bring their father Jacob back with them and to make plans to live in Egypt. Joseph embraced first his brother Benjamin and then all the brothers, kissed and wept over his brothers as he offered mercy to reset their relationship. Afterward his brothers talked with him, and Joseph explained his unbelievable journey of the last twenty-two years. Joseph sets himself and his brothers free with forgiveness and mercy refusing to be imprisoned by hatred and bitterness. He chooses to live by different standards, values, an alternative way of being.

Joseph knew people well enough to realize that there is a difference between repentance and remorse. He exercised great patience and discernment with his brothers. But once he knew their heart, he revealed himself and experienced a joyful reconciliation. Believing God’s Word will come true can help us be patient with the circumstances of life. I believe that reconciliation is possible when people are willing to confess, forgive, and be forgiven in Christ. May we experience a joyful reconciliation in our relationships and communities. God has a plan for all of us as He had special plans for Joseph and His people. 

Jesus also has plans and recipes for the disciple’s life. In Luke 6, Jesus’ words call for much more than silent endurance waiting for eternal reward. Jesus invites His disciples to repay hate with love, cursing with blessing, and exclusion with intercessory prayer.

Most people have their own family and close friends, and they naturally love them. However, Jesus leads us not to pick whom to love and invites to love everyone. In addition, He tells us to do good to everyone, even the worst enemy who has put us in the persecuted, impoverished condition we are in. Jesus teaches disciples that it’s not enough to love what is easy to love. Love for others, especially those who oppose us is life’s guiding principle in accordance with today’s text. 

Verse 35 says, “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” These words are given to the disciples, not for the general crowd, and it seems to be difficult to put into practice. However, Jesus continually leads His followers to greater depths of compassion and higher visions of love and inclusion. God expects from us good fruit that is shown in obedience to Him and love for others. May we love every person and receive great reward from God. 

We must move forward deeper, higher, wider and love as God loves as a gift freely given, regardless of the worthiness or response. As in verse 36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” is a call to see and reflect our own vulnerability and mutual need for forgiveness, healing, and restoration. He pushes us to move to the next stage of spiritual maturity. Even in our vulnerability, we find holiness together. Holiness can be described as wholeness God has created and allowed, and it needs to accompany divine love.

Jesus relates to the wisdom of the day and interprets God’s command-ments for His time. Jesus understood scripture developmentally. Jesus’ words on the Plain set high standards, but Jesus is not asking us to be perfect on our own. Sometimes the path to holiness, the way to offer mercy, is not by what we do but by what we do not do. 

As we strive to grow into the people God imagines us to be, as we follow the commandments and the way of Jesus, let us remember that what we will become is more beautiful than what we can imagine because it is God who has created us. We should not be arrogant, but we must not limit ourselves when God is keeping and leading us in His way at the same time. May we be more merciful and holy in God’s image.

How many enemies do we have in our lives? How many people insulted or mistreated people’s lives without reasons? Of course, we must fight against evil in our society with the power and wisdom that God gives us and try to let God’s justice flow into this land we are in. However, our desires for mission and social justice should be based on our faith and love. We do not need to focus on other’s misbehaves or our painful situations we face. 

In today’s text, the question is not how they are behaving but how much we are loving. I hope we can make the enemy list zero by praying for and loving every person in Christ. It is hard to overcome a wound, but God’s love is much bigger and stronger than the wound. May we be freed from all our painful experiences and emotional sufferings with the love of God. 

Jesus continues to say, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (37-38)

Every time we find reason to judge someone else for an action or an attitude, may we look inward and see how much of that action or attitude controls our life. Jesus gives us the foundation on which we can build our lives through His living words. God’s ways are different. Forgive! Give! We can use generous measuring cups when we give something to someone else. May we be generous in what we give to others. God will give us the same kind of measure you give others.

May we look beyond sinful motives and actions to see the sovereign hand of God at work. I hope we do not be in such a hurry to make a decision today; discernment sometimes comes over time. Joseph did not require that his brothers make the first move in seeking forgiveness. Even before their repentance Joseph had treated them generously and graciously when he had every right to treat them with bitterness and anger. He wanted to be reconciled and just desired to hold them close and to see his father again.

Jesus was more than an example or a new image. Jesus revealed the merciful God. What are we prepared to do to repair a relationship? What is our desire to be reconciled? What can we do for the broken-hearted? May we seek reconciliation and love one another. Our church is so precious, encouraging, and wonderful, but I hope our church can be a more beautiful faith community. May we move forward to the next stage of spiritual maturity and grow in faith and love as disciples. 

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

Jesus Blessing and a Great Reward 13-02-2022

13th February 2022 (Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Title: Jesus’ Blessings and A Great Reward
(Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 17:5–10 & Luke 6:17–26)

By Heeyoung Lim

In Jeremiah 17 verses 5–8, the prophet declares that trust in God distinguishes those who are truly pious and happy from those who are not. Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. The pious frequently do not enjoy discernible reward on the earth, for the priority they place on God. The challenge of this text is to make it resonate with hearers who may be living faithful but still difficult lives.

The last two verses of this passage deal with the human heart and piety. The prophet emphasizes that the roots of sin are deeper than bad actions. Sin is a matter of the heart, and the human heart is often worse than we are willing to fathom. Sin is a heartfelt turn from God, just as piety is an equally heartfelt turn to God. The importance of the heart is a prominent theme in the book of Jeremiah.

According to Edwards, godliness in the heart has as direct a relation to practice, as a fountain has to a stream, or as the luminous nature of the sun has to beams sent forth, or as a life has to breathing, or the beating of the pulse, or any other vital act. Christian practice or a holy life is a great and distinguishing sign of true and saving grace.

Some people too easily excuse bad actions. However, this passage tells that our actions reflect our loyalties and loves perhaps more than we would like to admit. Today’s text tells us, “I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.” Are we ready for God to test our minds and search our hearts? How do we hear this on the personal level and in terms of our faith? There are the unfinished parts of ourselves.

At times we are all tempted or tested. It was God’s word that called Jeremiah back to the reality of his world when Jeremiah was tempted regarding a life without worries and challenges. We all get called back to face the reality of our world and our need to be honest about ourselves. Jeremiah’s vision meant accepting the challenges of change, with faith ortrust in the God who sees deep within our hearts. May we remember not only God’s love in Christ Jesus, but the message that God searches our hearts. If God searches the heart, it means God is with us. The God who would test the heart was not to be feared, but only to be trusted. In times

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of great change and transition, though, it is not always easy to remain faithful.

In Luke 6:12-16, Jesus goes up a mountain to pray and stays all night. The next morning, he calls the disciples together and chooses twelve to be apostles. The healing begins immediately, evil spirits come out of people, and Jesus’ word brings healing. The power of Jesus must not be overlooked, but even Jesus prayed before the selection of disciples and His ministries on the earth. Prayer should precede all of life’s decisions. May we pray every day and especially before every decision we face.

In verses 17-26, as Jesus and His disciples come down the mountain, a great number of healing-seeking crowds are waiting for Jesus because they want to hear Jesus’ word and be healed of their diseases. In this group, there are other disciples, Jews and Gentiles come from all over the regions. Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Blessed are you.” Jesus used the word ‘you’ in each statement because the crowds at that time were individuals living in difficult circumstances. The phrase “blessed are” (NRSV) is translated in other Bible versions as “God will bless,” “Happy are,” and “You’re blessed when.”

“Blessed” does not simply describe a state of happiness. Rather, it refers in a theological sense to ones standing before God. Likewise, the woes, though not as sharp as the pronouncements against the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, are prophetic. Luke’s use of such warnings indicates that he was familiar with adding a prophetic challenge, as compared to Matthew 5 spiritualized words of comfort.

Today’s text identifies the characteristics of God’s kingdom members who receive God’s blessing. His blessings rest on the poor, the hungry, those who mourn, those who are persecuted. While Matthew 5 has eight or nine Beatitudes, Luke 6 has four blessings and followed by four woes. The poor are contrasted with the rich, the hungry are contrasted with the full, the weeping are contrasted with the laughing, and the hated and marginalized are contrasted with venerated false prophets.

The unhappy poor possess the kingdom of God. The hungry will find satisfaction. Jesus will create new conditions and give laughter for those who weep. Even when loyalty to Jesus may bring persecution and suffering in the world, may we be happy in Christ and jump for joy in heaven. Jesus turned human need into human contentment.

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Jesus’ message to those who would follow as disciples is one of amazing promise. For many in that crowd, these words may have seemed full of justice and mercy. For others, they may have seemed a harsh judgment, because Jesus speaks of the great reversal of human understanding that we encounter in the reign of God.

In verse 23, Jesus said to His disciples and people, “Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven.” It means a present reward in “heaven” as understood in the reversal of the social, economic, and political conditions of the poor, hungry, downcast, and marginalized. Yet for Luke, these beatitudes and woes are not to be interpreted as a type of endorsement of suffering and persecution for the sake of a heavenly pie-in-the-sky reward in the eternal hereafter, or simply understood as general ethical prescriptions or impossible spiritualized mandates. One’s position in human society does not determine one’s position in heaven. We need to see if wealth, position, or power in this world is preventing us from joining those God is blessing with eternal rewards. May we have a great reward in heaven.

Blessed are we who are true believers. There are many ways to consider ourselves blessed. But being blessed does not stop at receiving a blessing. The blessing goes beyond the gift. Our hearts are influenced by who we are or what we do. Therefore, how blessed or cursed we feel can be a result not of what we receive in life but what we give from it. Christ’s love and teachings are written on our hearts. Our faith is not merely a call to ethics, it is a call to relationship with our communities, with our culture, and with God who is ever faithful to us as God’s beloved children.

Jesus’ words about blessings, reward, and curse in the passage turns our attention away from the immediate and materialistic preoccupation of our culture and toward more ultimate notions of human happiness and fulfillment. His message continues to reveal the surprising way of God. The good news is not always easy to embrace and follow. There are blessings and woes in life, and God’s people are not exempt. Trusting in God, we are called to bless others and invite them to participate in the missional work offered in Jesus’ words. What strengthens us to continue bearing such fruit? May God nourish us in life so that we may bear the fruits of faith, love, justice, and peace to our communities and our world.

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

Jesus calls for Faith and Obedience 06-02-2022

6th February 2022 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Title: Jesus’ call for Faith and Obedience
(Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1–8 & Luke 5:1–11)

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

In difficult circumstances, a young man Isaiah went to worship, saw the Lord, and had his life changed forever. God’s ministers called Seraphs are serving him and they are literally the “burning ones”. They appear only here in the Old Testament as members of God’s court. They covered their faces so they would not see the holiness of God. The prophet Isaiah stood in the divine council but identified himself with his people on earth who were unclean.

Isaiah confessed that I am a man of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of a people’s sinfulness, and God accepted the prophet’s confession. (5). In today’s text, God took away his guilt and atoned for his sin, and the heat and holiness joined to prepare him to use those lips as God’s messenger. Isaiah was accepted to stand in God’s presence. When he heard God’s question, “Who will go for us?”, he volunteered, “Here am I. Send me!”

Many people do not listen and cannot understand what God is saying, but God remains faithful and declares His word through His people. God called his prophet to confront a faithless king and declare judgment for the present but hope for the future. God’s people are called, cleansed, and commissioned. God calls people to be a part of His mission. God wants people to volunteer to go where he wants to send them. May we be able to respond to the voice of God calling like “Here am I. Send me!”

God comes to us through Scripture and Christ. Isaiah’s experience shows both the unapproachable glory of God and how we might access God’s glory. God’s grace is achieved through not by the striving of God’s witnesses but by divine power, in the promise of renewal and the restoration at God’s appointed time. God’s promise can be expressed as holy seed, it will be blossomed and fruitful in faith. Even in our very incompetent to do what God asked, may we completely respond to God and mirror to the world in Christ.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus had witnessed their lives before calling disciples to a ministry of witness. Jesus’ eyes cuts through the din of pressing crowds and the lives and labours of common people. Jesus’ power also transforms the lives of those who hear and obey. Prior to Jesus’ call to Simon, James, and John, Jesus’ word brought the people to the lakeshore. His recent healing of the possessed man in Capernaum amazed the people and His reputation had spread rapidly and widely. When Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” These are clearly hard words for Simon to hear after an unproductive night of fishing. Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Simon submits to the request as an act of obedience, and this tangible sign of obedience leads to miraculous results.

God’s living word calls, pulls, and pushes people out. Simon and James and John could hardly believe their unexpected abundant catch through Jesus’ word from deep and empty waters. They were amazed and yet afraid. The word came to them and captured them. They left boats and nets and followed Jesus. Jesus’ living word cuts through our daily life with the gift of grace and freedom that enables one to leave old way to follow Jesus. 

A sense of expectation accompanies Jesus’ command to set out the nets again. In accordance with some biblical commentaries, several types of fishing nets were used in those times, depending on conditions. The net Jesus tells them to let down is a trammel net, commonly used in night-time fishing. It was the wrong type to use in daytime, as its web could be easily avoided by the fish and would be visible to the fish in the daytime. Simon knows this; however, the fishers follow Jesus’ command. He simply says, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Even when Jesus wanted them to do extra work in different means they never experienced before, they obeyed Jesus’ words and followed Him rather than arguing or showing off.

The miraculous catch of fish that fishermen could not do with their skills was unexpected, and the means of catching was also different with tradition. Jesus responds with both assurance and commission. He said to His disciples, “do not be afraid” and “you will be catching people”. Jesus invites Simon and the others to join with Him in proclaiming the reign of God. Jesus has revealed his power through his teaching, his miracles, and his calling of disciples to follow him in his mission. 

We are called to cast a net of God’s way of love, justice, and peace and gather all people into abundant life and God’s work. How do we respond to Jesus? May we expect to find Jesus at work revealing Himself in the midst of human need. Jesus is the source of all power. Let Him be the power source in every area of life. Jesus’ divine power and authority give us reason to follow Him in the new ways which human tradition cannot do. 

Jesus’ power is much bigger than what we know and how we have always done it. Jesus invites Simon to cast those nets that he had just finished cleaning once more. Jesus’ call and word take us to much bigger place than our capabilities and our comfort zones through our faith and obedience. Do we still stay where we’re comfortable? God will show us what we’re truly capable of when we trust Him beyond our own ability.

May we listen for God’s call and volunteer to go on mission for Him. We would say to Jesus, “but because you say so I will let down the nets” even in a situation that we never imagined before. Jesus tells us, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Jesus was clear about those who heard but did not act: the word of God is not to be taken lightly. Where is our deep water? What are our nets? No matter what, may we believe that God is the power source in every area of life. Jesus’ call and word are calling, pulling, pushing us outward toward new and boundless horizons. May we walk on a deeper, happier, and new journey of faith through the power of Christ and the Word of God.

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

Unless Motivated by Love 30-01-2022

30th January 2022 (Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany)

Title: Unless Motivated by Love
(Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 1:4–10 & 1 Corinthians 13:1–13)

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

According to Jeremiah 1:5, God had been at work in the life of Jeremiah before he was born. God formed him, knew him, set him apart, and appointed him to a particular service. God is involved in the forming and shaping of the people. God created Jeremiah to be a prophet or spokesman for Him. 

However, Jeremiah protested that he was not able to speak, but he also felt that he was too young. He did not volunteer for God’s calling, but God refused to accept Jeremiah’s plea of inadequacy. He was almost drafted. God repeated his commission and command. Although Jeremiah feared persecution and ridicule throughout his career, he stayed true to his message, and trusted God’s promise. When God calls people, they often respond with excuses emphasizing their weaknesses rather than relying on His strength. One of main reasons people are slow to respond to God’s call is fear, but we can make a comparison of our inadequacies with God’s adequacy. 

Both prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah received God’s divine touch, but God had a different purpose for each. God touched Isaiah’s mouth for cleansing. He was a man with a consciousness of unclean lips. God touched Jeremiah’s mouth for empowering. He was a person with a consciousness of inadequate lips. When God calls people to His service, He equips them for God’s work and the kingdom of God. 

God called Jeremiah first to uproot and to destroy. Then, He called him also to build and to plant. Those who serve God sometimes must tear down what needs to be removed before they can build and plant the new. All work for the Lord consists of a twofold aspect of positive and negative. Those who declare God’s Word can expect opposition as Jesus experienced rejection. 

God is aware of what is going on in His world and how people are responding to His message. He wants us not to do what is in opposition to God’s ways. May we consider our lives in light of God’s knowing and having a purpose for persons. God promises to be with His servants who obediently serve Him. May we rely on the Lord’s promise that He is with us.

In today’s text, Paul strongly insisted that wonderful gifts from the Spirit of God are without value unless they are accompanied with the greatest gift of love. 

Paul compared love to the spiritual gifts the Corinthians valued highly. Even if people are speaking in tongues of angels, such an extraordinary gift would profit nothing without love. Without love it would be nothing, even if someone was supposed to have the gift of prophecy or knew every divine secret. Paul spoke of a special ability to trust and believe God to do great miracles and the gift of faith as the ability to move mountains. However, even this dramatic ability would amount to nothing without love for others. Even beneficial acts like giving whole possessions to the poor would profit someone nothing if a person did not do it out of love.

In Matthew 22, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” Paul followed Jesus. It is no wonder Paul argued that without love for others all spiritual gifts are worthless.

Paul focused on love between brothers and sisters in Christ. What is love? Today’s text invites us to know and practice love. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.” These fourteen characteristics of love also apply to many other human relations. 

It signifies forbearance, slowness to repay for offenses. God is patient because he does not immediately punish those who offend him. God’s patience slows down the judgment process and opens the way for reprieve from punishment altogether. Patience bears with an offense, but indifference ignores it altogether. Patience has a more temporal focus, while kindness refers to the way a person treats others. 

In general, kindness is soft and gentle, but it is not weak. it sometimes takes the form of a strong way if there is a goal for bringing a good result, defending someone, and obeying God’s will. Jesus’ own life showed such a careful and powerful kindness, and Paul who followed Jesus demonstrated this as he dealt kindly, but firmly, with the Corinthians.

Love does not envy or boast. To envy is not to display the love of Christ, who gave up all for the sake of others. Love is not rude or self-seeking. Jesus showed the greatest expression of putting others’ benefit above His own through His life-giving sacrifice and humbleness. Love is not easily angered. Those who love others are slow to anger, but there are times when anger is appropriate. Jesus became angry when he saw people’s hardness of heart and the money changers in the temple (Mark 3 & John 2). Paul himself who followed Jesus became also angry when he saw the idols of Athens. (Acts 17) We should never allow ourselves to become indifferent to the suffering of others or to the honour of God.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Wisdom is required to know when and how to protect, and love always tends to protect. The New Testament encourages Christians to persevere in their Christian walks. Here Paul had in mind particularly the need to persevere in love for others. May we look to the length and perseverance of Christ’s love. 

This chapter focuses on love and emphasizes the importance of the edification of others. Spiritual gifts and services do not benefit the believers and faith communities unless motivated by love. Love of others needs to be a higher standard than effective services or spiritual gifts. When Christ returns, everyone will see face to face. Everything of which the gifts now speak in part will then be revealed in full. When Christ returns, there will be no need for prophecy, tongues, or the limited knowledge the church gains in this world. Imperfect gifts of the Spirit will disappear when perfection comes. Spiritual gifts are temporary devices for serving and benefiting the Church until Christ returns, but love is eternal.

Paul spent much of his ministry emphasizing the importance of faith and hope, but he placed even more value on love in this context. To show the importance of Christian love, Paul included it alongside faith and hope. While faith, hope, and love stand above all spiritual gifts, the greatest of these is love. 

Was there ever one who loved us so deeply as Jesus in our lives? May we have eyes to see that our life of love is to be our goal. I hope we can see that of all things we have in this life, the greatest of these is love. In this life, human beings are given the opportunity to grow in love, from childhood to adulthood and from immaturity to full spiritual maturity. 

All of us have room to grow. The standard is set by God and made real in Christ, but these love and growth also exist in our faith communities.

Love never ends and builds up. May the love of Christ be our priority over other aspects of life ​in the Holy Spirit and our love for others be demonstrated in the way we treat them. May we await the realization of the blessings of the gospel and use spiritual gifts which are based on the love of Christ. I pray all our precious spiritual gifts and services will be motivated by the love of Christ. 

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

God’s Word and Spiritual Renewal 23-01-2022

23rd January 2022 (Third Sunday after the Epiphany)

Title: God’s Word and Spiritual Renewal
(Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 8:1–3, 5–6, 8–10 & Luke 4:14–21)

By Heeyoung Lim

Spiritual renewal and vitality do not occur apart from God’s Word. It convicts of sin, affirms grace, and reveals the will of God.

Ezra’s commission was to restructure the Jewish community under God’s word. People gathered to hear the word of God delivered through Ezra. All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law, and they all stood up when Ezra opened the book. Nehemiah 8 enables the exiles who returned to Jerusalem to not only read but also to understand. Such teaching relies on the attentive hearing of the people.

Deuteronomy 31 commanded the Israelites to gather once every seven years for the reading of the law. Verse 12 says, “so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law” Ezra may have had this in mind when the people assembled. The assembly was composed of men and women and all who were able to understand, including children. God wants us to read, listen, learn, and obey His word.

Ezra read the law aloud from dawn till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate, and the time involved was from five to seven hours. His decision to read the law at this location implied that the Word of God was more valuable than the altar or its sacrifices, that the law was greater than the temple. In a demonstration of respect for the reading of God’s Word, the people all stood up.

In verse 6, Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” The raising of hands signified worship and dependence on God. The double “Amen,” which means “it is so,” reinforced the people’s agreements and obedience with the adoration Ezra offered. May we listen carefully to the word of God and respond with Amen.

Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. It represented humility before a sovereign and expressed once again the people’s devotion and respect. In the power of living God’s word, all the people had been weeping as they listened to the word of God.

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In verse 10, the people were told by Nehemiah, go, and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. He said to them, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” While the reading of the law produced genuine repentance, holy days were meant as celebrations of God’s love and mercy. Our worship is a time to give our most precious things to God such as prayer, praise, confession, love, and ourselves. Repentance may follow during worship, and it is also precious, but God made this holy day to be celebrated as a day full of joy.

Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest and scribe collaborated for God’s work. They instructed the people to enjoy a feast and to eat the best they had. In addition, they were to share with others. It was a day for rejoicing in God’s mercy and goodness, not for weeping. May we enjoy worship as a feast and celebrate this holy day. Ezra concluded, “do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

We cannot know God’s will and character without reading His word. May we devote time to read the Bible carefully and thoroughly and go deeply into their meaning so that we will be challenged by its beauty and truth through Bible reading. God desires that all people should know Him and do His will. God’s Word deserves honour and obedience. Great joy comes from obedience to God. May we remember the joy of the Lord is our strength and obey whatever we learn through Bible reading, study, or listening.

Luke is telling us of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of Jesus as He steps forth in public ministry. On the earth, Jesus is dependent upon His God for life, faith, and mission. Jesus begins his teaching by reading a passage from the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Isa. 61:1ff. Luke 4:21)

These words were about the description of the Messiah who was to come. The messianic ministry description was already familiar to the synagogue worshipers and was reinterpreted before their eyes. When Jesus rolls the scroll, returns it to the attendant, and sits down. “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him” (20). Then Jesus speaks from his place of sitting: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”

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The Spirit gives direction in all ministries for God. God’s ministry focuses on those whom the world ignores. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises. Jesus has unequalled authority in his ministry and teaching. Jesus is saying that his life work will be to heal the broken-hearted, announce the release of prisoners, recover sight to the blind, and announce the graceful year of the Lord (14–19). He is the one that they have been waiting for all of their lives.

When Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1–2 in the synagogue in Nazareth, He declares that His ministry in the Spirit as Messiah of God calls Him to be an agent of love and grace to the oppressed and needy. His message will bring much needed healing among the people, and He has come to announce the year of forgiveness, the acceptable year.

Our Lord stood in front of the hometown crowd and started His early ministry, proclaiming liberation, freedom, and salvation in the Jubilee year through the Word of God. He announces that his ministry will be like the year of jubilee. As we know, every fifty years, the fields rested and were reinvigorated for future harvests. In this jubilee year, debts were forgiven. People returned home. Slaves were set free. Some scholars speculate that the very year that Jesus appears in the Nazareth synagogue may have been the year of jubilee. Jesus brings the good news of God that releases, restores, and sets us free.

In what ways do our words and lives spread the gospel? Today’s text affirms that God will help us understand and practice God’s good ways. May we bring good news to the poor, the captives, the spiritual blind, and the oppressed. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, may we convey the love of Christ to the mistreated and those who have failed.

Sports stars and many athletes have been training and practicing, hour after hour and week after week. Many singers and musicians have been playing exercises, perfecting technique for long hours out of the public eye. Their performance can be inspirational, but it is the fruit of long, patient hard work. The role of parents as a life-long job and the role of a mature adult also did not happen overnight but were accompanied by long hours of learning and experience.

Jesus’ life of prayer leading up to His baptism, temptation in the wilderness, and going public with God’s words. There was a silent preparation in Jesus’ life and ministry for a long time too. I hope our eyes fix on Jesus, and we can bear the fruit of time and love in Christ.

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Following Jesus means accepting His mission and His time. I pray we can ask God to show us how to carry out Jesus’ ministry to the poor and needy that Jesus began. The word of God is living and active. May we also review our daily ways of living in Christ and obey God’s word. May we receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our life and experience spiritual renewal through the Word of God.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Great joy comes from obedience to God.

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

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

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

By Heeyoung Lim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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God Is with Us 09-01-2022

9th January 2022 (Baptism of Jesus)

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

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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