October 16, 2021

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)

God’s Glory and My Beloved Son 14-02-2021

14th February 2021
Transfiguration Sunday
Title: God’s Glory & My Beloved Son
(2 Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9)
By Heeyoung Lim 

There are many connections between Moses and Elijah in the Bible such as the separation of water, fire from heaven, meeting the Lord on Mount Sinai, and so on. The two leaders ended their earthly lives in remarkable ways, and they are associated with each other on the Mount of Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9.
Regarding the separation of water, the Red Sea and the Jordan River are different, but God was at His work in the same way. They were wonderful leaders, both had important successors (Joshua and Elisha) who extended the work the Lord had given them to do and experienced amazing moments. God made them leaders and witnesses for God’s work.
During Elijah and Elisha’s walking and talking, a chariot of fire and something else appeared and separated the two of them. Elijah’s departure happened through supernatural intervention.
The history of interpretation for this text focuses on Elijah’s ascension and its relation to his unended life. Elijah’s ascension signifies hope and presence of the spirit’s continuation since he was taken up without dying, (2 Kings 2:12)
Chariots and horses were military symbols, but they represented God himself as the ultimate protection of his people.
There were special words and meaning we need to remember in today’s text. Those were “Stay here” from Elijah & “I will not leave you.” From Elisha. Elijah gave Elisha three opportunities to leave, and each time Elisha said no at a respectful distance. The loss of Elijah did not prevent Elisha from what must be done because it was not a person’s ministry but God’s.
Elisha’s faithfulness provides inspiration in a world of disposable relationships and temporary loyalties. His faithfulness to the process allowed and influenced his transformation. Transfiguring by faithful journey will be connected to transformation.
A dying man would traditionally say a blessing over his successors in those days. The leadership will pass on to Elisha from Elijah as it had been done from Moses to Joshua. When Elijah was asked about the blessing, Elisha replied, let me inherit a double portion of your spirit. (7) It was Elisha’s response after Elijah’s blessing.
Elisha knew that he had been appointed to be Elijah’s successor (1 Kgs. 19:19-21). But he needed Elijah’s God-given empowerment for the task. (2 Kings 2:7)
The departure of Elijah into heaven was filled with divine symbolism, and God had enabled Elisha to witness the departure of his mentor. (7,13)
We need more than God’s appointment for a position; we need to be anointed through His Spirit. That means spiritual condition is more important than our ministry position.
Position without power, is a burden not a blessing. Every single person is precious, and all roles are important in our lives and our service, but our trust and focus need to be on the Lord alone.
When God gives opportunities, our primary concern needs to be integrity and faithfulness to the Lord, not the impression we are making on others. We need to focus on the God of people, not the people of God.
While Elijah may have departed, everything of God remained. Israel’s need was not Elijah but the Lord. Elisha’s focus was on the God of the man, not the man. He had been given not only Elijah’s position but his power as well.
Our need is also not just being appointed by God to a position but being anointed by Him to carry out His missional tasks. In the reign of God, strength comes from weakness, glory from despair. We can invite people to be transformed and transfigured inside out under God’s protection. Today’s text from the Gospel of Mark is about a transfiguration story on the mountain.
What is it like on a mountain top? Some of us may have driven or climbed to a mountain lookout. I have been to the height with 1708 meter of Seorak-San (Mountain), 1947 meter of Halla San (Mountain) and so many mountains, and I had lots of hiking opportunities in South Korea. I can remember sitting on top of a mountain looking at God’s beautiful creations and thinking of God’s love. Those were good chances to spend time with God and others with a thankful heart. Jesus was on the mountain with His disciples.
When people were speculating that Jesus is one of the prophets, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah. (8:29) Crucifixion and resurrection go together in Mark’s Gospel. Crucifixion is in Jesus’ future, but God’s glory and power are his as well. (Mark 9:9) Jesus knew that he would be rejected and killed by people, but he will rise on the third day and return in glory.
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain. He was indeed clothed in the dazzling light of God on the mountain. The Transfiguration gave the disciples the experience of witnessing a most amazing moment that attracts them to want to stay there.
The appearance of Moses and Elijah from the Scriptures represent the Law and the Prophets, but Jesus is higher and greater than the law and the two representatives.
The transfiguration of Jesus reveals his true glory. Jesus on the mountain with Moses and Elijah is not transformed but transfigured before his disciples.
Transformation is more about complete inner change, but transfiguration is more about the change of appearance. One of the differences between transformation and transfiguration is vision.
However, His transfiguration transforms the disciples by witnessing in the text and transforms us by removing our biased and limited vision in our lives.
Jesus’ disciples are confronted with Jesus’ glory three times in the Gospel of Mark: First, the feeding of the 5,000 (6:47–52), then seeing Jesus transfigured (9:2–9), and the resurrection of Jesus. (16:1–8) Peter, James, and John saw the glory of the Lord by Jesus’ transfiguration.
In the transfiguration story, from the cloud there came a voice,
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. (9:7-8)
The voice of God, speaking the same words that were spoken at Jesus’ baptism. (Matt. 3:17)
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11)
There was a difference between the two. The voice of God from a cloud confirmed Jesus is God’s beloved Son and let the followers listen to Him. It was directed at the disciples, to the church, rather than to the Son as it was at his baptism. The speaker was God, and the love of God was presented and declared in both baptism and transfiguration.
Jesus’ transfiguration lay in the halfway between Jesus’ baptism and his resurrection on His journey for salvation.
We can hear God’s voice through this text together, “Listen to Him.” Do we try to listen to Him in our lives? We are witnesses on our faith Journey as the three disciples became witnesses in this story. We can say that we experienced suffering and the glory of God in the past, and we are also laying in the road between cross and resurrection in the present.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded the disciples to keep silent until after they had witnessed his death and resurrection. We are still in the heavenly mystery and God’s veiled plan on the road as in verse 9.
The Christian life needs to be balanced between mountaintop solitude with God and valley service for others, because we need to respond to the Lord by spending time with Jesus on the mountain and serving for others in the valley. Christians are not called to exhibit a passive love that simply tries to be good and avoid evil. The love of the cross and the hope of resurrection should work in our lives in the power of Christ.
From the transfiguration to the resurrection, we need to walk the way of the cross and the way of suffering. It is the road we walk with Jesus. I hope and pray we can commit ourselves to walk with Jesus on the road. I believe Jesus will lead us the God’s glory and the life of resurrection on the road.
This week on Ash Wednesday 17th February, we begin the walk of the cross as God’s beloved children. When we leave here today, we will also be on our way to the cross by listening to Him, living out the Gospel, praising the Lord, and so on.
Whatever we do or wherever we go, we walk with Jesus, a way that leads to suffering and God’s glory at the same time. I believe we will have a new perspective as we walk the painful way of the cross actively in the love of God, for we know that Jesus is with us on the way!

Thanks be to God! Amen!

God’s Protection and Jesus Healing’ 07-02-2021

7th February 2021
Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany

Title: God’s Protection & Jesus’ Healing
(Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39)
By Heeyoung Lim 

The holy God is our Creator, He brings comfort and renewed strength to his people. At the beginning of Isaiah 40, a call went out to comfort the people who have been exiled from their homeland, those who are tired and weary, experiencing trouble thinking of a new future.
In verses 21-24, there are questions and rebukes, “Have you not known?”, “Have you not heard?” People did not feel God’s protection and His creative power, but today’s text proclaims God’s power that will make this vision a reality. 
Isaiah tells us God is more than one who brings punishment and judgment, He is also the one who brings comfort. We need to be aware of the importance of God’s power and humanity’s powerlessness in our lives.
Our powerful, caring God will provide people with strength to overcome their difficulties when darkness enters every person’s life. We sometimes see no way out of the situation we face, but God will make a way for us.
We may have reasons to fear evil as we acknowledge the existence of evil, however because we are under God’s protection, we fully trust that God will keep us safe, as God is with us even in the darkest moments. I hope we can trust in our comforter and His promise to save us even when we are suffering. We can ask God for strength to continue serving Him and others when we are weak and tired of doing good.
God is telling us through Isaiah.
29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (29-31)
We shared Jesus’ first exorcism last Sunday, Jesus could have stayed in Capernaum more and become a local hero in many people’s problems and demands for the purpose of being popular. However, he decided to move on to another ministry of healing.
As soon as Jesus left the Capernaum synagogue, Jesus went into a house, a private place for women because the synagogue gathering was for men in those days. The house belonged to Simon and Andrew, and Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever.
Jesus healed the woman, and she served Jesus and his disciples straight-away. Every patient needs to rest to be completely recovered, but how come the healed woman’s first response to serve Jesus and his disciples? The fact that she got up and served immediately indicates that the woman was fully healed at once or she might be expected to serve in her culture.
Jesus healed the woman and set her free from her fever and her service was a faithful response which is a way to show respect and gratitude to her healer. What a miracle. Jesus describes himself as one who came to serve, and he commends humble service to us. (10:45)
We can imagine the scenes from Scriptures, Jesus was busy to spread the gospel and to heal many people including another exorcism in both private and public places, He encountered a few people or big crowds in various situations. But He went into the dark desert to pray seeking God’s will. Jesus showed us the way to live out the gospel. Our lives and service need to be in prayers just like Jesus.
The sacrificial servant continued his ministry with His disciples, He also got crowds to hear the good news of the gospel. (29) Jesus did not allow the demons to speak in verse 25, he did not want them to have power over him. They are forbidden by Jesus.
We encountered Jesus’ first healing when He raised up Simon’s mother-in-law. The verb to “raise up” is used in healing stories several times in Mark. (1:31, 2:9, 2:11, 3:3, 5:41, 9:27.) The healing of the woman is the first healing and the echo of resurrection story in the gospel.
Mark’s gospel invites us to look for experiences of healing and resurrection in everyday life. We believe that we will be resurrected in God’s timing, but we can live the life of resurrection here and now restarting and getting up even from the deep abyss of despair and anxiety.
Jesus did not just heal individuals, but also, He restored people’s relationships and communities. Even the unaccompanied woman in the crowd was healed by touching Jesus. “Who touched me?”, he said and looked around to see who has done it. Jesus said to her “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” All we are His daughter or son, and Jesus is looking around to see you. That is one of reasons that we are not alone, Jesus is always with us.
The LORD is the everlasting God. We can walk through the toughest situations without giving up because the unchangeable fact that the LORD knows, recreates, and strengthen us. God brings comfort and renewed strength to us. That is why those who place their hope in the LORD find new strength. We will be able to soar like eagles to new heights of achievement under God’s protection. (Isaiah 40:27)
Jesus had his own private place to pray. Do we have our own special place? We all need to find our own time and place to fill our hearts and pray once again.
Jesus is our healer. I believe Jesus will touch our broken hearts and anxious minds. We are all going through different situations and tough times, but we can still travel, rebuild, and trust in the Lord. It requires energy and strength when we are on a journey of faith, but those can be ways to move forward into the new creation that the LORD has created and in further progress of.
Our healer, Jesus does not stop His ministry, He continues the ministry of healing and liberation. What is our response to Jesus’ healing? I hope and pray we can all fulfill our responsibilities through our faithful appreciation, immediate responses, and humble service together.
We are blessed by God’s protection and Jesus’ healing, and we are invited to follow Jesus spreading the gospel and growing in faith.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

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

Jesus Authority and Christian Freedom 31-01-2021

31st January 2021 
Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
Title: Jesus’ Authority & Christian Freedom
(1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28) By Heeyoung Lim 

Today is the fourth Sunday after Epiphany. I hope the light of Epiphany will shine upon all of us.
When you think of your school days, what do you remember the most? Do you remember a special teacher? How much of the contents in all the teachings and sermons, do you remember from all your preachers? Most likely not that much.
Mark tells us that Jesus preaches, but he gives us little of the content of Jesus’ sermons. It focuses on who Jesus is. Teaching focuses are more about relationship and existence rather than information and content in many cases.
This story is about food sacrificed to idols. In the Greek culture of Paul’s day, families often participated in religious sacrifices, offering sacrificial animals in pagan temples.
Corinthians said to Paul. “We all possess knowledge.” The knowledge is that idols were nothing and that there is only one God, but not everyone understood it. They have not realized that human knowledge is fragmentary.
Knowledge can result in humility and love, but often it produces unsympathetic arrogance. Love always builds us up while knowledge often make us arrogant. Paul wanted the Corinthians to place a priority on love, not on knowledge and he said, “whoever loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:1, 3)
What a blessing! You are known by God because you love God. Today’s text indicates the primacy of love over knowledge, and it is connected to believers’ behaviour.
There could be no problem with eating the meat offered to idols since it had been offered to something that did not exist. (4) In comparison with Jesus, demons need not be feared because they are nothing under Jesus’ name. That is why Paul felt free to permit the Corinthians to eat meat sacrificed to idols.
However, Paul insisted that their proper theological conclusions did not justify their deeds. They sinned by eating meat sacrificed to idols, it was not because of the idols, but because of the damage to fellow believers. (7)
Paul is pastorally concerned for those with weak consciences, so he led the Corinthians to restrain their behaviour, and he warned that the freedom might become a stumbling block to the weak. (9)
We have great freedom in the gospel, but we need to be aware of our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. Christian freedom needs to be sacrificed when it leads others to sin. We sin against Christ if we cause other believers to sin.
Using knowledge of Christ is necessary to avoid sin because proper theological knowledge can lead us away from sinning against Christ, others, and ourselves. Christian freedom grows as Christian understanding grows, but our freedom should be in consideration of others and communities.
People try to limit other’s freedom according to their prejudice, fixed idea, and stereotypes, but Christians must not resent or condemn those who are involved with the differences.
The freedom of individuals and communities in the gospel need to be respected by weaker brothers and sisters in Christ too, because the freedom in the gospel is greater than our own.
To do this we need to seek to improve our Christian understanding, have openness to others and to love one another.
God’s words and truth needs to be kept in any situation, but ways of keeping it should be in love and consideration. We need to have freedom in truth and love in communities if we are part of God’s family.
Mark 1 talks about “who Jesus is?” more than the contents of Jesus’ teaching. The cultural distance between the past and the present challenges for interpretation regarding today’s text.
On the Sabbath Jesus enters the synagogue and begins teaching. The people who heard him teach were amazed, “for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1: 21,22) They had never experienced such authority and they were utterly amazed.
We can imagine a scene in a Capernaum synagogue which has worship, teaching, and the community are gathered. There would be possible questions of Jesus’ authority. For instance, “For whom does he speak and act?”, “Who has authorized his ministry? “, and “Is he really sent by God?”
The service from the synagogue was interrupted by the cries of a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. Here the voice was not from heaven, it came from the unclean spirit.
Immediately Jesus was encountered by Satan, but it became an opportunity to show his authority over the power of Satan. The man’s personality had been damaged, and his existence was under the demon’s control. (23)
The question “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? shows that there was more than one demon possessing the man and causing him to cry out. The demons with the unclean spirit found Jesus, and clearly recognized the authority and mission of Jesus.
Jesus ordered the demon to “be quiet” as he commands the sea to “be still”. He rebuked the unclean spirit and the sea. (Mark 4:30) Jesus healed the man, and His exorcism represented a demonstration of authority. It results in healing and restoration, and the people were amazed once again. (27) Those who witness it are utterly amazed both by the authority of his teaching and his authority over the unclean spirits. The impact of his actions causes his reputation to grow throughout Galilee. (28)
The command to come out of him has meanings that God’s enemies are beginning to be defeated, and the rule over the world is about to end. It is the conflict between the power of evil and the power of God in this battlefield of life.
There are times when Jesus’ teaching causes conflict with the authority in those in religious and political power. But here he is causing conflict with the powers of darkness. Jesus is not just healing a suffering man. He is challenging the powers of the evil one.
Whenever Satan or demons are trying to destroy us in our lives, we need to cast them out. How? God makes us defeat them in the name of Jesus, He restores us by His power. We have been rescued from the evil one and restored through the crucified and risen Christ.
Jesus, the sacrificial servant, began his ministry by preaching and teaching the good news with authority and proved it by casting out the demon. It was the first public deed of power in his ministry. Jesus denied and neutralized the unclean spirits’ capability to have a fixed place or unshakable influence in the world. Jesus’ “authority” and “power” over the unclean spirits continue to take us over.
One more thing we need to remember is that the term “immediately” appears three times in this story (21, 23, and 28). The immediacy of God’s reign and rule is breaking in our lives and ministries right now.
We are also amazed by Jesus’ authority and his teachings and deeds in our lives. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “deliver us from evil,” and we can shout out “Be silent, and come out of our unstable and shaking minds in the name of Jesus.”
Jesus’ authority and His ministry invites us to imagine a different place and transformed existence. Whether in the first century world of a healing in a synagogue or in our gathering of worship today. The kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God’s power and authority is manifested in Jesus Christ. This is an epiphany story for all who gather to worship God on 31st January 2021.
How do we live with Jesus’ authority as Christians with freedom permitted by God in this sophisticated 21st century and COVID affective society?
We are belonging to God as His children, and we can trust God to protect, preserve, and provide for us during the “complexed and unexpected desert times” of our lives.
Our knowledge requires the love of God and self-sacrifice as an extended family. I believe the good news of salvation is spreading through our words and actions in love. I hope we can appreciate Jesus gives us amazement, healing, and comfort day by day whenever and wherever He is with us. I pray we can be healed and transformed in Jesus’s authority and Christian freedom as God’s family and church.
Being Known by God and Being with Jesus are our blessing. All we are blessed Christian family who love God and others at the same time.
Thanks be to God! Amen!
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)

God’s Love and the Kingdom of God 24-01-2021

24th January 2021 
Third Sunday After the Epiphany
Title: God’s Love & The Kingdom of God
(Jonah 3:1-10; Mark 1:14-20)
By Heeyoung Lim

Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany. I hope the light of Epiphany will shine upon all of us.
Jonah’s story includes several reversals and contrasts between human actions and the divine will. Jonah volunteers to be tossed into the stormy sea to save the lives of the Gentile crew after trying to save his own life by running away to Tarshish disobeying God’s mission for him to Nineveh.
Today’s text starts “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time”, and the command is “Get up, go to Nineveh, and proclaim my message.” (Jonah 3:1) God did not leave him in the opposite direction of the divine will, He gave Jonah an opportunity to repent and turn away from his sin. As we know a big fish is used for Jonah’s repentance and God’s salvation. God brought new ways to fulfill His will and He was at work for the salvation of the Ninevites. (10)
Jonas’ story portrays God as persistent, and we can see God’s persistence through Jonah’s journey. Jonah cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (4) The people of Nineveh believed God, and they turned from their evil ways. (5-9) There was an urgency from God to love and save Nineveh, but Jonah in disobedience, was not aware of this and instead spent God’s time running away. We do not know what exactly this urgency is, but God leads us to the right path for His love and salvation. God wants to cure our prejudice against Nineveh and take off the greed to our own Tarshish, He accepts repentance and obedience from sinners.
The Ninevites’ immediate response in repentance also stands in contrast to Jonah’s initial refusal to follow God’s command. It was the conversion of an entire population from their social sins, and their sincere prayer, immediate repentance, and sudden changes of actions influenced God. God saw what they did, and He changed the promise of punishment to Nineveh.
In this context, God responds individuals differently, He can turn back from his decision to destroy peoples or nations when they repent and obey him.
We are in God’s sight, and we are witnesses of the merciful response of God. God’s love and salvation are for everyone, and His love is much bigger than his anger. I believe God extends forgiveness to the repentant people with love, and He gives us his mission and expects his people to carry it out.
Where is our Nineveh? What is our life-saving fish? God is listening to our prayer and He responds to us. It is time for us to repent and get up to somewhere in accordance with the word of the LORD just like Jonah and the Ninevites. God is persevering, responsive, and merciful to all who repent, as His redemption is further revealed and continued in Mark.
I trust that we will rejoice with its mission in immediate repentance and delightful obedience.
Today’s passage of Mark starts “now after John was arrested, so Mark’s audience knew the risks involved with giving themselves to repent, to begin a new life, and to be led by the Holy Spirit, and they realised courage is needed in their faith.

Last Sunday I shared Jesus called Philip and Nathanael. In today’s story he calls four fishermen at the Sea of Galilee – Simon, Andrew, James, and John. The four in today’s story were fishermen.

As far as we know, every one of the disciples was chosen and called individually by Jesus. First disciples were from the northern side of Galilee; not from the capital of Israel. Jesus did not do background checks to determine their intelligent levels, financial status, professional skills, talents and or excellences. The disciples also followed Jesus before he has performed any miracles. They immediately respond as Jesus recruits his first disciples, and they will be “fishers of people” according to his words. They are called to a totally uncertain future, but they immediately followed Jesus. How do we answer Christ’s call to become “fishers of people?”

Some people love fishing because it gives relaxation and fun, and they may have their own folding chair and fishing spot. But in Jesus’ day, fishing was not relaxing, it was a job that was physically and mentally challenging, requiring an individual to go beyond their limits to make a living.

What is fishing in our faith and life? A fish dies when taken out of the water, which can be interpreted as a death to the world. The fishing of people can have the meaning of rescuing them from the snares of sins. The purpose of Jesus’ call to discipleship is not to take people out of a tough world, promising them a better life in God’s heavenly kingdom. Fishing is a special mission that need catching in a net and dragging into the kingdom of God by the grace of the Lord. It sometimes requires patience and knowledge of who we are trying to catch, but the most important thing is that loving God embrace all people. Believers can trust in God’s Word, and He is faithful to do what he has promised.

Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming the “good news” of the gospel, which is that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” Jesus repeats the message of John the Baptist, “Repent and believe in the good news.” (15)

The message was that God’s kingdom was near which may include of fast approaching, so people had to prepare for it by repenting and believing in the good news. We do not know when Jesus will come again in the future or our last day on the earth, but we know that we need to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

We hope and wait for the kingdom of God to be completed in the future, but the kingdom of God needs to be interpreted as the reign of God here rather than a place. Jesus not only talks about the reign of God but performs it. The reign of God can be established on earth, and it is actualized in our lives.

Jesus called disciples after proclaiming the good news, and He formed a team for spreading Gospel and the kingdom of God. We need to be a team player because we are a team formed by Jesus.

Jesus and the four disciples are leading people to experience the presence of the kingdom of God. Jesus and their works make it possible for people to experience the power of God’s kingdom in many ways.

There were lots of life-giving ministry from missionaries or Christians just like many disciples in the past, and many people who believe in Jesus are still in danger and persecution today. We are in a relatively comfortable situation regarding our faith. What is it that keeps people today from responding to God’s invitation as the Ninevites and the disciples did? One of theologian, Luther stressed the priority of grace and faith over human works, but human response is always necessary in Jesus’ calling.

God wants to use us in his mission if we will love people as he loves them. Our missions are following Jesus and fishing people. Jesus’ call is not limited to clergy or certain people and He calls every single one of us. The Calling of the Disciples extends to family and community. We also have callings within family and church as individuals and team players at the same time, and we can serve for the Lord as disciples in communities too.
We will be answering the call as Jesus calls us to do. We can hear the voice of the Lord one more time. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people!” We can also make a God’s love list and learn to love as Jesus does continually, because every ministry of Jesus started from his love.
How do we follow Jesus as disciples? I hope and pray we seek the kingdom of God and God’s mission first in our lives and dedicate ourselves to fulfilling it. I believe we can repent of our sins and promise God we will obey him in everything he asks. May God replace our anger, anxiety, fear, and frustration with his love for the kingdom of God and people.
We can also thank Jesus for what he is doing and look for him to work together as a beautiful team in Jesus, and we can give Christ our repentance from sin and commitment to a life of obedience as Christians and disciples.

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

Glorify God as Disciples 17-01-2021

17th January 2021 
Second Sunday After the Epiphany
Title: Glorify God as Disciples
(1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51)
By Heeyoung Lim

Today’s text is about learning to use the human body for the right intention and purpose. What is the body for? For the Lord!
The Corinthians believed that they were free of all rules governing their behaviour and Corinth was stained with sin and soaked in a corrupt culture. Their dualistic notion that God would destroy the body but save the spirit led them to believe that sexual behaviour could not count as sin.
AII things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Paul tried to teach them about the freedom to follow God and love others as Christians in this situation, and he insisted the freedom came from belonging to Christ like the mention of “you are not your own.”
Belonging to Christ means we should orient our behaviour towards glorifying God, and everything we do needs to be beneficial in the Christian communities according to Paul. It is not principally to individuals, but to the fellow believers and faith communities of which we are part.
God’s law is far much bigger and greater than that of humans, and God does not depend on satisfying the law.
We are not attached to live only for life matters such as personal career, wealth, power, reputation, etc. These things are influential in our lives, but everything needs to be extended into a broader context such as community, social justice, and the kingdom of God. I think human life is well fitted when it is opened toward the larger reality of God and God’s glory, because life itself is within God’s plan.
Today’s text contains my life confessions, one is “not all things are beneficial”, and the other is “I will not be dominated or enslaved by anything”. (12)
In fact, our bodies are members of Christ that will not be destroyed but will experience resurrection as Christ was. (15) God raised Jesus and will raise us too.
Anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him, and His body becomes “a temple of the Holy Spirit”. (17,19) Christian’s relationship with the Lord Jesus is not just spiritual, but also physical. There could be lots of temptations regarding our body in our society.
God allows us Christian freedom, but we are put into the right relationship with God by grace in Christ anywhere and anytime. The whole church is also God’s new temple, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which makes people into believers and helps them to live as such Christians and Christian communities.
For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body. (20)
We are not our own, conversely, we are God’s. This is the reason why we live and die for him. Our lives are given by God and we are called to worship and glorify God. I hope we can commit to God so that His wisdom will lead and rule all our words and actions, and I believe we can live out the Gospel to glorify God in our existence. All the parts of our life belong to God, and we are “to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice”. (Rom. 12:1) One of the ways for glorifying God is to be responsible to God, we are the ones who love and worship God. We are in the house of God when we are with Jesus, and we can glorify God in our body. I hope we can all discover how to live the human life which brings glory to God.
The story of the Gospel of John is not just about John, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael, it is about Jesus. Jesus here is deciding not just where to go next but whom to take with him. He is selecting followers.  
Jesus invited Andrew and Peter to go to Galilee with him and Jesus “found” Philip and more. Philip followed Jesus straightaway, then told Nathanael
Jesus finds Philip, and Philip finds Nathanael, and Philip makes the best possible invitation for spreading the Gospel, and he takes Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) directly to Jesus and says to Nathanael, “Come and see.”
Gospel is basically passed person to person, and now we have more ways to spread Gospel in this media environment.
Jesus calls many not just one, He calls our church and faith communities.
In the middle of today’s text, there was Nathanael’s question: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”. (46)
Nathanael is honest enough to express his amazement that God’s Messiah could come from an insignificant village.
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” (47)
Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (48)
Jesus knows everything and we are witnessing that Jesus calls us. He sees and knows us, and He can read our hearts as Jesus saw him under the fig tree, and He knew who he was and noticed him.
Nathanael declared Jesus the Son of God and added, “You are the King of Israel.” (49)
Jesus seems surprised since he responds and said, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?”
What is our declaration? We do not know what exactly and suddenly transformed Nathaniel’s view of Jesus from doubting to great confession, but we know the epiphanies of Christ come to different people in such different ways. Epiphanies can be a transformation period through meetings and conversations with Jesus. May we be able to please our Lord through the transformation of faith and life.
Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
Most of us are people with shortcomings, but Jesus is perfectly honouring us, and he calls and makes us disciples. We do not need to worry about being disciples and fishers of men, because Jesus will make us, and He can accomplish great things in any situation even in this COVID affected life.
We believe we will be saved if we believe in Jesus, but it is not enough to believe in Jesus, discipleship consists in following him as Phillip and Nathanael decided to go with Jesus. (51)
“You will see heaven opened, and angels ascending and descending” (51). The disciples will see the divine glory. What will we see in the future?
All believers are all different, and they can be all models and examples of Jesus’ disciples, but we need to be sure people understand we are only a messenger, not the message itself. It is also important for us to remember that people come to Christ through us, not to us.
Our Lord, Jesus calls us to work with him every day, and He begins his ministry by calling people to be his disciples and entrusting his work to them. Jesus exactly knows us and unconditionally loves us to do God’s important work in our lives. Jesus wants us to believe in him and follow him, doing the work that he commits us to do.
We have been gifted and entrusted to be God’s workers in many ways such as leaders, elders, musicians, readers, visitors of the sick, offerors of hospitality, lay preachers, helpers and carers. All roles and responsibilities are significant.
Whatever we do, we need to be in a relationship with God and need to have conversation with Jesus first. I hope we will transform in God’s will and follow Jesus, because Jesus wants us to believe in him and follow him.
Our task is to say, “Come and see.” and our response is to follow Jesus as disciples. I hope we will all stand up for justice, peace, and truth as disciples of the Lord, and I believe our fears, anxiety, and worries will begin to go and disappear.
I believe that we are ready to face anything, because God will be at our side in His perfect plan and big picture. God’s greatness exceeds what we have already seen and what we can imagine, and God’s power is much more than what we expect.
The disciples will see the divine glory when the work of crucifixion and resurrection is completed. The unveiling of the glory of God occurs in the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus, and the hidden glory comes between present suffering and future glory. We are in the conjunction of crucifixion and God’s glory. I hope and pray we are ready to follow Jesus anywhere and we can try to glorify God in our body as disciples all the time.

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

Baptism of the Lord 10-01-2021

10th January 2021 
BAPTISM OF THE LORD (FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY)
Title: The Baptism of Jesus in The Blessed Trinity
(Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11)
By Heeyoung Lim
Today’s scripture is the very first chapter of the Bible, as God is the Creator of this world. (Genesis 1:1)
God said, “let there be light, and there was light”. (3)
Light and water from Genesis 1 reminds us of the eternity in which God dwells within. God’s creation brought order from chaos, emptiness, and darkness, and it has continued to fertility and fullness in the great plan of God. (2)
As sufferings and struggles are all around us, the lights come up instead of going down, because we live in the light of God’s word. We can practice the great lightness of being that separates night and day. God also brings the healing of the waters in our lives. (5)
Things came to life whenever God spoke, God’s words are enough to make things come to life in a way that God is pleased. (3) God said, “very Good!” after the creation.
God may not always do what we want, but He always does his work for us on time just like His creation.
Jesus has a connection back to the waters of creation when he is later baptized in heaven-opening event. He does what God did in the beginning and reopens the world and recreates us in our present lives. (5)
I believe Today and 2021 will be a renewal day and year in heaven-opening event by the power of God’s recreation.
In Mark 1, Jesus trusts the power of God to keep on creating order out of chaos when he steps down into the waters of the Jordan descending from above with the Holy Spirit.
Mark is the earliest and shortest of the Gospels, and it is written for Gentile readers, especially Romans. Mark opened his Gospel by confessing that Jesus was the Son of God. (1)
Mark presents Jesus as the ultimate servant, and he emphasizes what Jesus was doing rather than what he was saying. It clearly shows Christ as a servant of action, and more than half of miracles of all thirty-five written miracles have been introduced in the Gospel of Mark.
One of key messages of Mark is 10:45.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the background of today’s passage, John’s preaching of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins was highly unusual for a Jew, because Jews thought that only Gentile need to be baptised when they convert to Judaism.
John criticized the people for guessing to be righteous just because they were children of Abraham. We know people would be rejected if they do not bear fruits of repentance. (4, Matthew 3:7-12)
The baptism by John was a baptism of repentance, and it is about repentance and forgiveness. Israel was being asked to turn away from its disobedience and to start anew by turning toward the coming Messiah, Jesus. They would be forgiven from their sins and would experience God’s grace through Jesus. (4) John was getting people ready as a messenger.
Today’s Scripture invites us to bear fruit of repentance by turning away from something bad and turning in a new direction that God is pleased. It is time to acknowledge our disobedience and rebellion toward God first if we have, and need to confess our sins
The location of the baptism was the Jordan River, which was several miles outside Jerusalem. (5) Do we walk our own several miles for faith? The road to God is not that far, but there would be a time to walk in a long distance for a long time. Where is our Jordan River? It can be the time and space of baptism.
John made it clear that he was the servant of the coming Servant, and his task was to prepare the way and then got out of the way. (7)
“I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). 
There are big differences between the John’s baptism of sinners and the baptism of the sinless Jesus, and a sharp contrast between the ministry of John and of Jesus.
What happened to Jesus at his baptism? There was the affirmation of the Spirit of God and God’s voice.
Jesus saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Mark seems to suggest that only Jesus saw the heavens open and the Spirit descend. (10) The word “torn open” is used again in Mark 15:38 indicating a connection between the baptism and crucifixion. Jesus’s baptism is connected to all his ministry.
John’s “wilderness” is where the voice cries for Jesus, but Jesus’ wilderness is where he is thrown by the spirit to be tempted, goes to pray (12, 35) and where he feeds the hungry. (Mark 6:31)
As Jesus arises from the waters of the Jordan, he sees “the heavens torn apart.” The Spirit and a voice descend in the moment of the baptism of the Lord. (10–11)
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10)
God speaks to Jesus and expresses His love and joy, and Jesus looks to the heavens and the voice calls out in love. (11)
There was a divine voice that calls Jesus “Son” and “Beloved” and Mark describes the Spirit “descending like a dove” on Jesus.
This is the same voice that speaks over each of us in our baptisms and continuous faith journey.
What a wonderful and beautiful scene! What a remarkable beginning regarding Jesus’ ministry! In Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit has the central role. Here is the blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are also in the blessed Trinity, and we can hear the voice “My son and daughter” and “Beloved” from God, and the Holy Spirit of the Lord is on us. We are not just talking about the love of God, but making that love manifest in our word, song, prayer, and life. We can celebrate God is with us when we are in the Trinity, and today is the day to be with Jesus.
“This is my Son, the Beloved” is repeated by a divine voice (Mark 9:7).
God’s love has permeated through our whole life, and we have been immersed in the Lord’s grace and transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I hope we need to remember we are in the blessed Trinity whenever each day is given like a gift.
There are three times of announcement “you are my son,” is in Mark at the Baptism of Jesus (1:10), the transfiguration (Mark 9:7), and the crucifixion. (Mark 15:39) Mark stresses the continuity of the ministry of John and Jesus. Today’s gospel demonstrates the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Spirit-filled ministry begins as he proclaims the good news, calls people to repent and believe (14-15), and calls the first disciples to follow him (16-20). His ministries were about salvation, faith, and making disciples.
Some key words through today’s text are “voice,” “wilderness,” “torn,” and “son.”, and it can be manifested in our lives. We can hear the voice by God’s word, and the heaven can be open through our prayer, praise, and life.
I hope we can all join God’s life-giving invitation through repentance and movement toward God. God is our creator, and He is always right on time, and Jesus is the Son of God and we are the children of God. We are joining in baptism of repentance and bearing fruits of repentance. In addition, we are in the blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What is the role in the world of Christians who are baptized? The roles of Christians who are baptised with Holy Spirit can be Loving God and others, and we have faith by God’s grace and transformation by the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, Christian baptism has transformed us into God’s beloved children, and baptism is more than an individual act. As Uniting Church Baptism includes, with God’s help we can live out our baptism as a loving community in Christ, nurturing one another in the faith, upholding one another in prayer, and encouraging one another in service.
Jesus began his ministry and preached good news after Jesus is presented and baptised by John the Baptist and empowered by the Spirit. Then he called his disciples and performed various miracles after special prayer in God’s will. The rest of the Gospel describes how this beloved Son fulfills the mission given to him by God.
I hope we can live out our baptisms by living joyfully as God’s beloved children and faith community, leading others toward Jesus, welcoming and accepting others instead of rejecting them, and responding and answering the Lord’s call to follow hm in the blessed Trinity. It is our happiness, and we can commit ourselves to participate in Christ’s work on earth.
I expect 2021 will be your best year for the glory of God, because God is our creator, and He is our provider. We are in the blessed Trinity, and God is with you on time.

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

New Journey in God’s Plan and Action. 03-01-2021

3rd January 2021 Second Sunday After Christmas
New Journey in God’s Plan and Action
(Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3–14)
By Heeyoung Lim
Happy New Year! I pray we can continue to worship and gather in a COVID-less environment in 2021. As we begin a new year together, may the light of Christ fill our life this whole year.
Many of us think of New Year’s Resolutions looking back the past, and plan something good for new year.
We can have some questions to ourselves regarding our faith too. For instance, how much time will I spend in prayer, praise, and God’s Word? How my spiritual life will be? Do we expect God will do a new thing for individuals and communities? What is our priority? How it is possible for a person to begin again?
The ”new thing” would be better, bigger, greater, and mightier than what we expect in us and our church. New Year’s celebrations provide a bit of excitement trusting God’s plan.
Psalm 147 starts and concludes “Praise the Lord!” I hope “Praise the Lord” will be our beginning and the end in 2021.
“The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (11)
The Lord strengthens and protects His people, and He bless their children generation to generation and guards them against the surrounding nations who have endangered them. (12)
The people are at peace with one another because God makes peace in our borders. This is God’s grace, and this harmony is from God. (14) All the world is at God’s command, and God’s spoken Word and written Word are all important and powerful. (15) God’s Word is the greatest blessing to us, and obeying it is our greatest response to God. (19) Praise the LORD is the last verse of this Psalm, and God’s people are rightly grateful.
Psalm 147 is classified as a Community Hymn, and it is a call to worship as well as a reminder of why we should praise to God. This text also invites to glorify God. There was praise for God’s protection in the text, and it can be called a new exodus or new healing and settling by God’s shalom. We also have our own reason to praise God, and all worship is centred in God who he is and what he has done. (19)
Many people would pay for sports, music, and dancing lessons regarding their hobbies if they are affordable. Those lessons would make more vivid life possible for us and for our children. It takes time and can be extended to our work life, but instruction is always necessary. There are many frustrations of installing and using new media and apps in a changeable society. We had to adjust or learn many things such as isolation, wearing masks, and using Zoom. How grateful we are when someone explains clearly and shows us by example how to use the media or apps as we do not know how to do something. God provides us with instruction and directions through His living words for salvation in God’s Plan, and Jesus explains clearly and shows by example how to live out faithfully until the very end before God.
How thankful we are when Jesus died on the cross for all of us, and how delightful we are as we have chosen and adopted by God as God’s family.
Ephesians is a letter about living together in human differences. Many of Paul’s letters open with thanksgiving for the faith or spiritual gifts of the recipient community. Ephesians includes both a thanksgiving for the community and for God’s action (1:3-23).
We have received the blessing of being chosen by God and adopted by him as his spiritual children. We have been chosen for relationship with God in the love, power, and initiative of God. (14) “God chose and adopted us to be saved as God’s children, but He does not choose those who will not be saved
Nobody has been excluded for salvation in God’s love. “God desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Thimothy 2:4)
In Today’s Scripture, diverse communities and people are more highlighted than individual believers regarding God’s relationship. God has gifted the community with his blessings in the heavenly places where God is with us and God’s work is shown through Christ. We are weak and shaken, but God wants us to be holy and blameless before God in love together. Our sins are forgiven in him as we believe in Jesus as our Saviour. This does not mean that true Christians never sin, it means our sin is paid for by the death of Christ on the cross. We can be holy and blameless in God’s sight as we are in Jesus. (4)
I hope we will all be standing before God holy and blameless when the Lord’s day will come. God gave us blessings to be freed and redeemed from our sins, and He led us into His spiritual family. That is to bring praise to God for grace-filled blessing and his salvation, and it needs to be continued until Christ’s return or the last moment of our life on earth. (12, 14)
God is praised in the Today’s scripture for having chosen us as God’s children and adopted the church as God’s own people. The adoption of churches and communities by God is also a blessing and it is an action plan by God. (10,11)
In Ephesians 1:5-6, both the goals and the means of God’s planed actions are graciously presented through Jesus. This was accomplished according to God’s delightful will, and the dual goals of God’s plan were adopting us and praising God. (5,6) God made us his children, and it pleased him.
God graciously presents his blessing on us so that we would praise God’s grace-filled glory. I hope and pray our appreciation and praise toward God will be soared in our lives in 2021.
We become enlightened in our relationship with God who is our redeemer, and we are enriched in Christ who is our Saviour. (11)
We are in different situations, but we are all under God’s protection. The Holy Spirit sealed us and made us secure in Christ for the completion of redemption. We are given and empowered through the Holy Spirit, who is at work in the church (13).
The Gospel is for all people, and we are thankfully in the presence of God and have a share an inheritance from God through the Gospel. (14)
However, there are so many people who still do not know Jesus around the world. Our responses will be to shine in the plan of salvation in 2021, and our hope in God’s desire will be continued until our final redemption when we will see the Lord face-to-face.
There are lots of God’s plans and actions in the form of verbs of chose (4), destined (5), bestowed (6), lavished (8), made known and set forth (9), and accomplishes all things (11). Those are God’s actions in accordance with God’s plans. All happenings were in the God’s pleasure and will, and his plan and purpose. (5-11), and all things went beyond human ability. Christ fills all things and Christians response in the Praise of thanksgiving.
This passage invites the community to praise God in terms of God’s grace and blessings in Christ and God’s plan and action for all believers. God’s grace is inclusive and redemptive, and God’s salvation is planned by God and accomplished through Jesus Christ. (9-10)
In addition, it is written for a largely Gentile audience too in Christ, and this message goes to dividing groups which are Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2.
God has “made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14)
God wants us to be one in Jesus, and He makes groups into one, and He breaks down dividing walls. New journey just started, and the direction of it should be in God’s plan and action.
We can stay and rest in God’s love even from our battle fields and suffering moments in the hope of salvation because God is with us and we belong to the family of God.
There might be still exclusive boundaries, excluding walls, and discriminatory factors that communities have and build in the world.
However, love and unity are required in churches wherever Christians stay, and the church will always be challenged by God’s presence in Jesus Christ to love and serve God and others.
Glory to God! I hope our church can serve and work in the name of a loving and righteous God and we can worship and praise God as true believers. I also pray we will be in the riches of God’s grace through praising God, and we can witness reconciliation and peace with justice by words and deeds in God’s plan and action. All we are thankfully Invited to Glorify God in 2021, this is not just duties or responsibilities, but it is also our delight response and obedience.
May our new journey be for each of us a year when we pray our Saviour’s Name with faith, a year when we discover that this world can be a quite different place with God’s love and protection through Jesus Christ.
Lastly, I hope and pray praising God from individuals and communities will be included and continued in our new journey of 2021.

Thanks be to God. Amen!

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