October 16, 2021

Jesus and Blessing in a Faith Community 27-12-2020

27th December, First Sunday After Christmas
Jesus and Blessing in a Faith Community
(Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3 & Luke 2:22-40)
By Heeyoung Lim
Welcome to the first Sunday of the Christmas Day!
There are two speakers, the prophet (Isaiah 61:10-11; 62:1-3) and God (61:8-9) in Isaiah 61 and 62, which is related the restoration of Zion. The prophet’s mission is central to Zion’s redemption. The people of Zion will rebuild and repair ruins, not only will the city of Zion be renewed, but it will also once again indicate God’s glory. The God of Isaiah promised a great U-turn of circumstances. The speaker has been changed from God to anointed messenger Isaiah in the form of praise.
“I will not be quite until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch” (Isaiah 62:1)
There were differences and gaps between promise toward Zion and reality of Jerusalem, but people and history meet the fulfillment of God’s promises as we encountered Jesus, the long-awaited Saviour of the world.
The mission given to Isaiah is still needed today, while Christians look forward to Christ’s Second Advent (coming of the Lord)
God uses devoted people to reveal his heavenly purposes to provide salvation and redemption for his people and for all the world. It is also presented in Luke 2.
Obediently, Mary and Joseph followed all the Jewish customs based on God’s Old Testament and they dutifully took Jesus to Jerusalem for the purification rituals to dedicate him to God as their firstborn. There was the Presentation of Jesus at the temple. (Luke 2:22)
Simeon was righteous and devout waiting for God’s divine consolation. He was God-fearing person and took God’s promises seriously. (25) He was in God’s expectations and lived in a right relationship with God. In his daily walk with God, he was led by the Holy Spirit, and he waited obediently for God to keep his promise. (25)
Simeon had seen God’s salvation Named Jesus as Mary and Joseph entered the temple with Jesus, and he gave them a blessing they did not expect. (27) The first blessing was praising God, but second blessing was about “fall and rising of many”. (34)
In Simeon’s first blessing, Jesus is God’s salvation and a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to people in Israel.” It was spoken to God reminding the fulfillment of God’s promises. (32) Mary and Joseph were amazed when they heard the blessing, but there was an unexpected blessing regarding the fall and rise too. Simeon spoke only to Mary. Jesus suffered and died, and then was raised to glory like the fall and rise blessing. We may just fall and rise, but it should not be constant falling, there would be the rising stage in Jesus.
Simeon waited for God to comfort Israel. Jesus is the comfort and consolation for which Israel waited. God’s promise was that Jesus would come before Simeon died. Simeon has waited all his life for this child, and now he can die in peace calmly and confidently. He was far from making the soul despair and he is in an experience of God’s presence and he was simply a dedicated servant of God.
Anna was a prophetess, one with great age and experience, having been married seven years and widowed eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. (38) Her life was uneventful, and her gaze was focused on only God’s salvation.
She approached the baby Jesus just as Simeon returned him to his parents and recognized what God was doing in the baby Jesus and gave thanks. (36)
Anna then turned to other worshipers and spoke her prophetic words about the child Jesus to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (36)
Simeon and Anna have waited a lifetime for perfect peace and meeting Jesus, and the blessings became a new beginning of faith Journey for Joseph and Mary as first-time parents in reminding all parents of the responsibilities.
Joseph and Mary were in some uncomfortable situations during their journey, they struggled to get to Bethlehem for the census while there was no room at the inn. Joseph stood by helpless and poor, watching Mary give birth next to animals, but a stable has been prepared by God. It was not earthly blessings. Joseph and Mary witnessed shepherds and others worship him after the divine child’s arrival in the world and took the roles and walked even in the limitations of parents’ social location. They have also experienced the fall and rise under God’s protection.
They are given a divine mission to complete in their human flesh as parents, but God had fulfilled his promise, and the salvation is not a human act, it is God’s salvation.
The story of Simeon and his interaction with the holy family reminds us of what we communicate and interact in our church. We can also think Anna was with the wisdom of age, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and a lifetime spent in the temple, and Anna’s coming forward to Jesus reminds us to come closer to people, and her testimony to the other believers and people gives a challenge to testify and spread Gospel.
In addition, there was life-long waiting and prayer from Simeon and Anna, and the emotional and spiritual investment in the child Jesus have been done in a temple. There were praising God and blessings for others from the elderly who also need to be respected and loved by others.
Jesus is son of his parents and Son of God. He is good news, Saviour, Messiah, the Lord, and the fulfillment of God’s promised redemption, cause of amazement and wonder.
However, the human Jesus grew in the ways that all children do, each step of growth preparing him to fulfill God’s eternal mission. (39)
We can bless each other like Simeon and tell everyone the good news that God has shared with us like Anna. It happened in a temple. We are called to bless each other, that is the call of faith community. God showed us the ways of blessings from a faith community where God’s faithful servants and true believers gather through worshiping God, blessing everyone, and spreading Gospel. We need more spiritual and emotional investment for our next generation and all generations because every single person needs to be blessed and loved in churches in the love of God.
Today is the first Sunday after Christmas. We will return to the ordinary circumstances of our lives but living with a new expectancy and confidence in the fulfillment of God’s purposes and the warm blessings from our church and faith communities.
I hope and pray our lives after Christmas will be transformed in accordance with God’s plan as true believers. We are a family who need to look after each other, our church is an extended family in Jesus. I think all the children are our children in Jesus and all the elderly are our parents in this extended family. I believe we have an obligation to care for those who are in need in tangible ways, so they can get up from the fall to the rise in the prayer and help from our faith community. Can we take away some burdens from our church members in some ways? Could we please pray for the sick of our congregation members more fervently? I hope we would like to come closer or visit to our congregation members and take good care of each other so that we can feel strong sense of love and belonging in Jesus and our faith community.
It is the time to have a deeper relationship with God and bless and look after each other for all generations as a new family in Jesus. I hope and pray we can be more surrounded by God’s grace and restoration, blessed, cared for, and encouraged by the church members in the combination of faithfulness just before 2021.
Thanks be to God. Amen!

Ref. Bible, Commentaries, theological books, and UCA materials

Glory to God in the Birth of Jesus 25-12-2020

25th December, Christmas Service
Glory to God in the Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-20)
By Heeyoung Lim

Merry Christmas! Jesus is born! Peace be with you! Jesus came to be with us as our Saviour. Jesus is the promised Messiah and Saviour who brings salvation to people from all classes, races, and nations of the world. His role as Saviour was proclaimed before his birth. We are grateful Jesus’ salvation is intended for all people.
There were the Saviour’s Earthly Birth and Heavenly Mission. The story of the shepherds and angels is set at dark and quiet night. Then, suddenly light and singing in the dark and quiet. The first words from angels were “Do not be afraid.” The angel choir brings good news of joy for all people. But the fear comes first, and then the shepherds listen to the song of Good News. Light from the dark and singing from the quite are gifts sent by God. The shepherds heard Good News and experienced God’s grace.
When did you hear Good News for the first time? How did you respond to the Good News? Specific time, place, and ways regarding conversion would be all different in accordance with our character, personality, and our faith. There would be gradual conversion, sudden conversion, and crisis conversion, and so on. God’s ways and His timing are also different according to individuals. Many people cannot point the born-again moment when our heart was carried into the presence of Christ.
However, all the fear we had were in and out, and the turning point in our lives is not the end, but it is simply a new beginning. God’s glorious angel terrified the shepherds, but quickly brought them reassurance:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (10-11) Gospel provokes joy which is the inward feeling of happiness instead of fear. Joy comes to all people, and it comes from God’s gift.
In Bethlehem, shepherds were nothing more than the ordinary. They would watch their flocks by night. One of the biggest surprises of Christmas is that shepherds were first to know about the coming of Jesus! God’s messenger could have gone to anyone, but chose the Shepherds, who became the first listener when God had the biggest news of all when they were simply at work.
God visited the shepherds through sending angels and lifted them to first witness to his salvation. It happened when shepherds were counting the sheep constantly and looking after them. Shepherds were in love and care, and they responded in worship and praise.
Telling the ordinary people first was important. It means that Jesus did not just come to the rich and the high even though the baby in the manger was God himself with all power and all authority under heaven. He came to the poor and the helpless, the sick and the lonely.
Most of us could probably be identified as an ordinary person like the shepherds in the field. I believe we share the privilege of hearing the Good News and encountering the living Christ with others even though we are still battle fields.
An angelic chorus burst on the scene, confirming the Good News, and singing heavenly praise to God. God revealed his glory, so that the shepherds could recognize.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (14)
God gains glory and people find peace through hearing Good News and praising God.
Angelic presence does not last forever, and angels leave. After the angel’s appearance what do the shepherds do? They made an immediate decision to go to Bethlehem to see what angels told them. They wanted to be a part of the work God was doing in this world, they saw God’s work in the face of a baby lying in a manger. I believe we are all already included in God’s awesome work of salvation and immediate decision is necessary for God’s work instead of delaying or holding back. That is one of reasons of joy and moving forward.
Shepherds found in a manger the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord himself. Baby Jesus was in the feeding place. This baby is resting in a manger on the night of his birth. (14) It can be connected to table where community gather around.
And after going to the stable and finding the baby wrapped in a manger, what do the shepherds do? They go home praising God for all they have seen and heard. (20)
We can go into the world glorifying and praising God because we encountered Jesus. I hope and pray all we can run to Jesus and spread the Gospel so that we can share the words of glory and praise with others.
I am confident many of us would like to live singing praise to God and passing on important news to the people around you. This Christmas I hope we can do as those ordinary shepherds did and keep on praising God so others may hear about the birth of Jesus. We are all witnesses to God’s coming into the world as Jesus Christ our Savior.
The Good News of great joy that is for all people, and I hope we can extend the ministry of our church to all people whom Jesus came to save. We can expect to find God at work in places where people would never think and live each day in obedience so God can use us when his time comes.
I am sure God is with us always if there are congregants who are crying to the Lord especially among our church members in many reasons. And I believe Jesus is with us all the time for all individuals and families who are struggling with grief, depression, loneliness, and illness. Only God can count and collect our tears, and He listens to our painful inner voice. Each one of us is not alone, and God is giving us a new mission to love and care for each other. Let us share our joy, grief, love, and grace together.
Christmas blessing and love might rest on you in the deep star-filled night. I pray that all of us may are able to make the immediate decision for Jesus and be abundant in the love, comfort, and hope of Christmas granted by Lord, and once again I wish you a blessed and joyful Christmas!
Thanks be to God! Amen

The Inbreaking and the Favoured in God’s Love 20-12-2020

Advent 4, 20th December 2020
The Inbreaking and the Favoured in God’s Love.
Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38
By Heeyoung Lim
Christmas is nearly here! Our Advent wait is nearly over! On this 4th Sunday in Advent, we lit the candle of LOVE. Soon Christmas day will arrive. We are challenged to reveal that same LOVE as we live out our faith here. We thank God for a love beyond our human understanding and await the birth of God’s LOVE this Christmas.
We are still in a COVID affected unstable world. How can we go back to the stable? We can stay stable in a manger of stable. Now, just before Christmas, we can get back to the basics of our faith which is God’s unconditional love freely given and received in a changing, uncertain world.
There are famous scenes such as angels, shepherds, wise men and stars in the Christmas stories, and Today’s gospel is more focused on Mary’s story regarding the Jesus’ incarnation. However, all the Christmas related topics need to indicate Jesus.
As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child in the stable of Bethlehem where Jesus’ inbreaking incarnation happened and the inbreaking is still happening to us. Where is our spiritual stable and Bethlehem? Can we all invite and welcome Jesus in our inner stable today?
As we are getting back to the centre of our faith and back to the core of what we believe, the distance with Jesus will be closer and closer.
God fulfills his promises, and He often accomplishes his will in unusual and unexpected ways. God’s promise that Jesus will “sit on the throne of David” fulfils the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:1-11 and reveals God’s faithfulness from the prophetic quote.
The angel visits a young woman named Mary. The angel Gabriel represents of the presence of God. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”
Mary is the favoured by God and she has experienced God’s undeserved grace in a special way. This does not change who Mary is, but she became a special instrument whom God chose to use in his gracious plan of salvation. Mary is elected to a particular purpose in which she wholeheartedly participates, but she is not sinless. (The favoured is not about favouritism.) The favoured by God is a blessing, but it does not mean she is “worthy of praise. The grace Mary received was God’s presence with her.
However, the highly favoured becomes sometimes the greatly troubled in this world. The appearance of divine messenger like an angel would be powerful and enough to stir up her thoughts. The heavenly messenger understood her troubled mind, so the angel said to Mary “The Lord is with you” and “Do not be afraid”. The angel’s message did not ease Mary’s confused mind immediately, because confusion reigned, and questions aroused. She had never received such a greeting!
What are our obstacles in a blessed event from God? Our spiritual blindness? The habit of saying “No thanks” to God? We are sometimes not ready to receive even greetings, blessings, the favoured by God, and we often misunderstand about God’s plan and will when the ways we face are totally different with ours even in a blessed event.
There was a divine birth announcement for a baby named Jesus and Son of God in the Bible. Mary is described as favoured and perplexed, and depicted as the model Christian believer when she questions, believes, and submits to her vocation.
God’s messenger had the answer to the confused Mary. The Holy Spirit will come upon Mary, enabling her to do and be more than she could by herself. The angel informed this child would be born through the Holy Spirit and a special miracle of God. (35)
Both Mary and Elizabeth were in the divine miracle. In humble submission, Mary was now ready to serve God and follow his will. (38) Both agreed to do what God required. With his mission accomplished, the angel left. Mary was responding to God’s command in absolute obedience.
God was at work again in wonderful ways. God’s grace removes all fear, and He does the impossible. Then and now! God will surround her completely with his sovereign power. God’s love will always care for us whenever God takes the initiative because God is love.
Mary is the “blessed one” who is called by God to bear the Christ child, the “servant of the Lord” who desires that God’s will come to achievement through her. (38)
There were voices from an angel in the presence of God, those were “Do not be afraid”, and “you have found favour with God”, and “nothing is impossible with God.” We can hear the voices when we are anxious, sad and in darkness.
Mary’s response to Gabriel’s remarkable announcement of the coming birth of Christ were “Here I am, and I am the servant of the Lord”. Mary’s obedience is neither optional nor forced. She has no choice but to submit to God’s will. Mary acts freely when she offers herself as a servant of the Lord. (38)
We are being called to be used by God, our existence and responses need to be before God. I hope all we can say ‘Here I am, and I am the servant of the Lord’ before God.
In addition to inviting us to think about who we are and what we do in relation to God and God’s work, this passage challenges us to be reoriented by what the incarnation tells us about Jesus. The inbreaking of Jesus changed our whole life in God’s love. God is giving us the salvation and continuous love through the inbreaking of the holy, the favour of God, and being with us.
The holy being came into a particular time and place (v. 26), sent by God to a particular person and community (v. 27). We cannot anticipate the ways that God will break into our history. Even this announcement of the long-awaited birth of the Messiah makes it clear that salvation is obviously from God. The way of God’s breaking is unfamiliar with us. God’s way is new, but there is a promise of “nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37). Jesus came to be with us, and he is coming, and he will come again to our broken lives and torn and ruined world, where seem to never be healed or overturned. Yet Luke tells us that not only is redemption possible; it has already happened. Because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the holy continues to break into our lives, to bring us closer to the completion God’s promises and the already-and-not-yet reign of God. (Luke 1:38)
We believe that God breaks in, to restore, reveal, and redeem the chaos we have made of, and we proclaim that God’s gospel of justice and peace may turn our world upside down. It is all about God, none of me.
God did the impossible, bringing the Son of God to earth in a virgin womb to become the Son of David who rules an eternal kingdom. (26) Nothing is impossible with God! All we can trust God to be true to his promises, but God act first and we response.
All we need to be receptive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our Christian life, as Jesus lived in dependence on the ministries of the Holy Spirit on the earth. I hope the indwelling Holy Spirit empowers us to live the life of faith.
God works out his will according to his perfect timing. Faith brings blessing. Praise and adoration belong to God alone. We would like to give praise and thanks to God continually for his gracious gift of salvation. I pray the inbreaking and the favoured by God will not be forgotten in our lives.
The Inbreaking on the earth happened and God’s love revealed in Jesus, God responds to our faith and rewards our obedience as Mary’s willingness and obedience were a part of God’s impossible acts. I hope and pray that God’s love with His saving purpose will be upon you and your lives always. God is at work by grace, and we are waiting for the coming of the Lord in obedience with great love.
Christmas reminds us that God comes among us as a tiny human baby in the same way, but all things are never the same! Let us go to the stable where Jesus stays to be renewed. Then we can follow him wherever he is leading us! The Lord is with you! Do not be Afraid! The Holy Spirit will come upon you. For nothing will be impossible with God. And we can say that Here l am, the servant of the Lord. This is our happiness in God’s LOVE. We praise God’s constant LOVE and faithfulness.

Thanks be to God! Amen

Ref. Bible, Commentaries, Theological Books, UCA & Other Denomination’s Materials and Resources

Gladness and Praise in God’s Garden 13-12-2020

Advent 3 13th December 2020 (Isaiah 61:1-11; Like 1:46-55)
By Heeyoung Lim
Gladness and Praise in God’s Garden

The God in whom we rejoice, prepares our hearts for the coming of the Lord. We light the candle of joy on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. We are glad indeed, to be together in the House of the Lord! I hope God will fill us to overflow with the joy of the Lord, and our hearts will be filled with laughter.

Light and joy flashed from God’s words. Two couples looked forward to the birth of their first child. A hint of fear and wonder tingles the expectancy and excitement.
Mary’s faith displayed itself in praise, Mary praised God for his great acts for her. Her praise included two actions: giving glory to God and rejoicing in the presence and actions of God. The Lord had looked down on Mary with loving care. Knowing the low socioeconomic status in which she was embedded in. God had placed her in a state of blessing, because of Jesus. She did nothing to earn or deserve this, but the almighty God had caused it with his mighty acts. (Luke 1:46)
He reaches down in mercy, finding in each generation people who worship him. He also pays careful, loving attention to the humble, raising them up to new people of importance (50) Loving salvation for an undeserving people, and God does what he promises (54) God gave her a song of praise, and Mary was willing to bear the disgrace to become God’s instrument of grace. (56)
In Isaiah 61:1-11, God sends his messenger to bring good news and help to all those in need who are in the post-exilic community. In Isaiah 61: 1-2, God’s salvation is related to good news, healing, liberty, and comfort.
We can hear good news when we are poor, and we can hear words of freedom when we are captive or when we are addicted to something. In addition, we will be released from what binds us when we are kind of prisoners, and we receive comfort given by God when we are mournful. Our hearts will be also healed by the Lord when we are broken-hearted.
Where is God’s transformation revealed today? In our whole life, the house of the Lord, our homes, workplaces, communities, and this precious place with the name of Leighmoor, where Jesus offers blessing for all. I believe God will be pleased more through our transformed life in Jesus.
The message from Isaiah is imaged both as a restored city and as an abundant garden (4, 11)
The world will see what God has done for Israel in the past and will know they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. (9)
That is, Isaiah’s vision is not an empty promise. It cannot be described as the pie in the sky. There is a similar expression in Korea, too. It is expressed as the bread (rice cake) in the picture.
However, God’s deliverance is real. God saved people in all of the past, present and future, and God’s salvation is here with us now. All we are invited to participate in God’s salvation through Jesus. That is our true joy, and it will be experienced by others who still do not know Jesus in the future.
The good news for God’s salvation and deliverance is for everyone. The anointed is to deliver good news to the oppressed, to wrap for healing the broken hearts, to declare liberty for the captives and an opening so the imprisoned may find release. The anointed cannot avoid vulnerability or rejection by continuous preaching and divine service. God’s anointed must confront the perpetrators and sources of oppression, marginalization, hopelessness, and despair. They lived with shame and disgrace, and they were devastated. They experienced downfall and abandonment by God, but the prophet Isaiah told them and tells us that God’s presence is real. The scripture reveals God’s special treatment and care for the lowest, and the weakest.
The words spoken are full of promise. It is not a temporary promise, it is an everlasting covenant. From verses 8 to 11, the topics of justice, hope, anticipation, deliverance, and blessing are spoken to the people. It was a promise and a reminder that God has not forgotten them.
Isaiah 61:10: I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness
the prophet begins to give praise for what God is going to do. They will dress in a fashion that indicates their rejoicing in God’s faithful act of deliverance. (10)
God restores his people to righteous living and glorious worship because the Lord loves justice, and He will let the people wear the robe of righteousness. (10) God will glorify his people by bringing them back to his house of worship.
We cannot overlook the fact that many people are feeling oppressed, broken-hearted, captive, or imprisoned in some way today, and some of them are wondering when and how God’s transformation will take place in our lives. We may have a feeling about God’s silence when we are facing difficulties and sufferings.
What do you do when that disappointment happens? There would be many things to do such as seeking, praying, and waiting!
Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for God to transform the world through Jesus Christ. Isaiah’s words tell us that the transform is not to be an empty hope but a sure promise, because the promise for recovery is already given and will be given by God.
The restoration for God’s people was God’s mission and His desire for salvation. That is why salvation is related to mission and our response. Where and how mission will happen in our lives.
There would be lots of unexpected losses in our lives, but God will provide for us and will redeem our losses. In addition, a restored community will stand as a sign of God’s blessing to the society and nations around it. To be missional is to live as a people of good news, liberation, justice, and comfort. These are the ways of God.
If our church is restored and transformed by God more and more, God will be surely pleased more. We are in God’s garden. This garden is filled with the trees of joy and beautiful flowers of gladness.
Isaiah 61 offer restoration and hope, and Isaiah guarantees that God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations (11)
As we stay and walk through the days of advent, we need to remember not just that Jesus came but why Jesus came. Jesus takes up the opening lines as a description of his ministry as he comes to bring good news to the lowly community of his day, living as they were under Roman overlordship. (1)
Today’s sermon title is “Gladness and Praise in God’s Garden” (61:1-11)
Our whole being will be joy in our God, and our soul glorifies the Lord with Joy.
This Advent Season, as we wait for the coming of Christ, may our joy inspire and empower others to join us in walking of God’s salvation and restoration through Jesus. May we keep on rejoicing and celebrating the coming of Jesus who brings us God’s garden singing, laughing, and looking to the future with hope, peace, and joy.
Our lives begin with God’s divine presence and real action. It is not a pie in the sky, it is real. The action of God meets people’s needs. I hope we never forget what God has done for us, and I pray the gladness and praise given by God will surpass in our lives with the power of Christ while we are wrestling with our struggles and joys. I believe that we will be under God’s unconditional love and His justice, and we can seek God’s will and time among the despised and rejected.
Our Christ has redeemed our world, and he leads us into a loving family. We are one in Jesus, and we are God’s family who live and love in God’s beautiful garden with great joy. No matter what happens, God loves us, and his living words continue to speak to and transform us. There may be unexpected events and storms in our lives, but we wait with eager expectation for the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of God.
Our mission needs to be giving hope to the world’s hopeless through Jesus. I hope and pray we will experience God’s blessings and know that everlasting joy is ours.

Thanks be to God! Amen

PLEASE STAND FOR ENTRY OF THE BIBLE

SERVICE OF APPROACH

PRAYER

TIS 286 Light One Candle for Hope

SERVICE OF THE WORD

Isaiah 61: 1-11; Luke 1: 46 – 55

SRC 199 I Cannot Tell

SERMON: Gladness and Praise in God’s Garden
[Sermon on Web / Hardcopies at the Door after worship]

SERVICE OF RESPONSE

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

NOTICES – OFFERTORY

TIS 647 Comfort, Comfort All My People

BENEDICTION

NOTICES:
Entry for QR Code & Sign In/Out (Up to 70)

Sunday School & Messy Church

Sunday School begins Today

Some Christmas events happening in December

16 Dec Blue Christmas (7.30pm) @ Murrumbeena UC

19 Dec Countdown to Christmas Journey Stations
(10.30-12.30) Around the MUC site

20 Dec Carol Service in MUC back garden
Leighmoor & MUC (5pm)

22 Dec Christmas Nativity Zoom
MUC & Leighmoor (4-5.30pm)

24 Dec Christmas Eve Service and Event @ Leighmoor
For Children, Parents and Grandparents (4pm)
For All Generation Together (8pm)

Prepare the Way for Jesus 06-12-2020

Prepare the Way For Jesus Mark 1:1-8
Before we get into today’s Gospel of Mark, I praise and thank the Lord for bringing me here to the beautiful and precious Leighmoor to share His words with you all today. I am honoured and happy to become a new minister of Leighmoor. Once again, I would like to express my sincere thanks first to God and to all of you.
Jesus came to embody God’s love and peace, and Jesus is “the beginning of the good news and son of God” (1:1). We are witnesses to the Jesus who incarnates on the earth and comes to take away our sins.
Today’s Gospel says to us: “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John the baptizer is the one crying out in the wilderness, “Repent! prepare the way of the Lord!” Here is a voice from scripture.
John the Baptist fulfills the Old Testament prophecies as the messenger to prepare the Way for Jesus who is the Sacrificial Servant. (1:2)
Mark quoted from two Old Testament prophets to show that Christ’s coming had been foretold. (1:2) One is Isaiah (40:3), and the other is Malachi (3:1). Especially Isaiah emphasized the servanthood and salvation of the Messiah. In both cases, a messenger was sent to prepare the way for Christ’s coming.
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3)
The messenger being sent to prepare the way was John the Baptist.
If John the Baptist prepares the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him, the road and journey would be smoother. The appearance of John the Baptist in the wilderness was the most important event in his life. He was doing his ministry in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord. (1:4) He was for sure out of his comfort zone, as much as the stand in the new-norms of the COVID-19 affected world.
The wilderness symbolized disobedience. The nation of Israel disobeyed God by not going into the promised land after the deliverance of God and the Exodus from Egypt. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years before they entered the promised land as God’s people. By coming to the wilderness to be baptized, the people were admitting their disobedience towards God from the place of repentance (1:4)
The baptism by John was a baptism of repentance. Repentance means turning away from something and turning in a new direction. I hope we are all able to turn away from our sins by genuine repentance and can run to God instead of staying in the place of sins, and I believe that our spiritual distance towards God will only get closer and closer even in the midst of social distancing.
We are being asked to turn away from our disobedience and rebellion and to start anew by turning towards the coming Messiah. By doing so we would be forgiven from our sins and would experience the grace of God through the Messiah. (1:4)
Confessing our sins and turning towards the coming Messiah demonstrate our acknowledgment of disobedience towards God. Confessing our sins and returning to God needs to be in our heart and lives in this season of Advent. (1:5) Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit.
The reference to John’s clothing and diet emphasizes that he was not mainstream. John’s dress and lifestyle were a protest against the godlessness and materialism of his days. (1:6)
John was the servant of the coming Servant, Jesus. John’s task was to prepare the way and then get out of the way. He showed his insignificance compared to the Messiah by saying, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. John was saying that he was not even worthy when compared to the One coming after him. John had declared that the coming Messiah will be “mightier” and “more powerful” than himself (1:7)
John made it clear that his ministry was only preparatory, symbolic, and temporary. His baptism was with water. John was pointing out that the Messiah’s baptism would bring about lasting change with the Holy Spirit. The Messiah’s baptism would be internal, changing a person from the inside out. (1:8)
The good news starts with the One who keeps coming to us and calling us to follow. The good news is that our present and future lies with Christ.
Christ comes to our world as one of us, in the form of a human, but Jesus is giving us salvation and unborn and unseen future in both faith and life. We can be carried forward into the future by the wind of the Spirit. Jesus helps us move forward into the new life which is to come even in these arduous times.
We need to commit follow Jesus wherever he is leading us. In our prayer, in our worship via Zoom or in person, in our hope-filled pause we seek to let go of our sinful ways of doing things and move forward into new ways of being God’s people.
We faced and experienced unexpected pause just like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it really changed us a lot, and it broke many kinds of our prejudice and fixed ideas we should not have. There were also unexpected healing and comfort given by God.
Do we have the courage to take up the challenge of turning our life around? I hope all we can remember “A voice cries out in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord!”
We all need the Voice of God speaking to our lives and we all need a voice to confront us with our ingrained sinfulness. In addition, I pray we can stay and move forward to pave the way for Jesus and his salvation through repentance, having a voice for Jesus, and dwelling in the Holy Spirit.
John fulfills the role of the one who is the forerunner, the one who is called to make known “the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1), “the Lord” (1:3), the one who “will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (1:8)
There were big differences between Jesus and John the Baptist.
The journey of forerunners is not without risk and consequence. One of theologian Delores Williams says that “The wilderness was a positive place conducive to uplifting the spirit and to strengthening our Christian life.”
In this text, may we hear and see the value of those who pave the way to Jesus even in this present life. May we reflect upon the contributions of those who made ways for us when there seemed to be no way.
How do we prepare for the coming of Christ? We are being called to turn away from our sinful habits and unhealthy patterns that hurt ourselves and people around us.

Feeling sorry about inner flaws and our imperfections lead to a transformation where the Holy Spirit in Us enables for us to be transformed. Transformation is hard, but genuine change is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
More importantly we are being called to turn to God and embrace the new possibilities that are opening to us. God will help us to be fearless when facing challenges, and to trust in the power of Christ.
What is our voice in the 2nd Sunday of Advent? How is our journey of the wilderness? Do we prepare the way for the Lord? What was happening in the manger and what was happening on the cross for all of us?
May we pause in the gratitude of the coming Jesus, and we seek to prepare for the coming of Christ in a variety of ways. We lit the 2nd candle as a symbol of PEACE today. Repentance will lead to our inner peace in Jesus. I hope all we need to get rid of our biggest obstacle to achieving peace in individuals and communities in the help of God.
For whom are we waiting? I hope that repentance from ourselves and forgiveness from God will be in our lives. Jesus will lead us illuminating the darkness of trouble, anxiety, and danger. I believe that all we can prepare something for Jesus through genuine repentance and sharing reborn love and peace-filled relationship in Jesus in this second Sunday of Advent.
I hope and pray that all we can live, love, and serve in obedience to God’s ways waiting our Jesus, and God’s abundant blessings and the Lord’s peace will be upon you always.
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Ref. Scriptures, Commentaries, UCA and other denomination’s materials, etc.

Sunday Sermon 29-11-2020

Service November 29, 2020.  Leighmoor Uniting Church

Advent

-Rev Barbara Allen

Suggested Hymns

TIS 265: O come O come, Emmanuel

TIS 286: Light one candle for hope

TIS 272: Come, thou long expected Jesus

TIS 302: The angel Gabriel

TIS 229: Jesus loves me, this I know

TIS 279: The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices

TIS 276: There’s a light upon the mountains

TIS 283: Long ago, prophets knew

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession

This is the season of His coming;

it is time to wake from sleep.

His coming is the advent of saving love.

His coming is good news for all.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

God of presence and power,

in the face of strange happenings on earth,

of amazing changes in science and technology, of probings into outer space, and into the inner landscape of our mind and body,

we acknowledge your ongoing advent in all things.

You are the one who pushes back the boundaries, who enables us to ‘discover’ new things.

You are the one who comes to us in Jesus the Christ,

revealing the true nature of your love.

We praise you, and worship you.

O God, you bid us watch for signs of your reign.

Open our eyes to behold your presence in all parts of our lives.

Keep us from putting you on the fringe, from turning to you only when we are in need.

Remind us that you accompany us throughout our lives.

You tell us, through Christ, to be ready, since we know not when the hour will come.

Keep us from putting off this vital work, make us willing to break out of the comfortable, into the work that you want us to do.

Help us to be prepared for your appearance, help us to prepare the way.

Loving God,

Evidence of your creativity is all around us, yet there have been times when we have thought you absent, or limited.

Forgive us.

At times we allow society’s cynicism to cloud our vision.

Forgive us.

Scripture tells of your awesome power that shakes the hills and seas, and confuses people, but at times our praise is too restrained, our prayers too tentative, or lukewarm, our deeds of mercy too few.

Forgive us.

As we listen to messages about preparing for Christmas by purchasing certain items, or spending big on rich food, forgive us for following the ways and voice of the world, rather than your way.

Remind us about the spirit of Christmas, rekindle our love for the greatest gift of all.

Forgive us when we do not give you top priority, when we forget that we are under your reign, that you are our King.

And in a time of silence we remember other things for which we seek forgiveness

(silence)

God is love.

Through Christ our sins are forgiven.

(thanks be to God)

Take hold of this forgiveness and live your life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Bible Readings

Isaiah 64: 1-9

Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19

1 Corinthians 1: 3-9

Mark 13: 25-37

Sermon

Advent: the beginning of the Christian New Year.

It’s our New Year’s Day today

(and aren’t we relieved!)

It’s nice to be able to make New Year resolutions ahead of the general community 

It’s not often we’re one month ahead for things, is it?

Advent: 4 weeks until Christmas.

Advent means ‘coming’, from the Latin ‘Adventus’

Advent reminds us of Christ’s coming at Christmas, as well as his final coming, the Second Coming of Christ at the Last Day (for which we have to be on guard) and to remind us that Christ is also in the present, in each of our lives: our personal relationship with Jesus.

Christ’s coming in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Beginning Advent with apocalyptic words encourages us not to get stuck in history, in a manger, with a baby.

We are to be alert, for the coming of Christ.

It is our season to prepare, reflect, and acknowledge our gift of salvatiob through God’s Son, Jesus.

It is a time of waiting.

It is a time of reflection.

So Advent is both a joyous time, preparing for Christmas, and also a solemn time, when we consider the Last Things, Christ’s second coming. 

Society bombards us with the commercialism of Christmas.

We need to resist, to try to hold on to our church calendar.

Remember: we do not conform to the world, we do not have to be told how to live our lives by the large retailers.

Listen to our Lord, hold fast to your faith and your religious traditions.

We are more than the sum total of our material possessions.

Advent is about preparation, but preparation always done in the light of Christ.

We often miss the penitential aspect of Advent.  But it is there.

Purple is the colour of this season-a colour of penance.  A colour also used during the penitential season of Lent.

This side of Advent tends to get pushed aside as we prepare for Christmas.

Let’s not forget the two parts of Advent, for this season reminds us that Christ’s coming did not end on Christmas Day.

We, as the church, proclaim it, celebrate it, and live in hope.

We are a people of hope, a people living in expectation.

If we were able to worship in the church building today, we would have had an Advent wreath, and we would have lit the first candle, the candle of hope.

Today’s Gospel reading from Mark addresses the theme of hope.  He speaks of the Son of Man

v 26: ‘Then they will see the Son of Man coming in cloud with great power and glory.’

In the midst of this reading, two main principles stand out.

First, the Christian is to avoid unhealthy interest as to the actual date of Christ’s second coming.

vs 32: ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’

If we calculate the date when our Lord will return, we will be wrong.  Does this matter?  A warning follows:

‘v. 33: ‘Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come.’

‘Beware, keep alert…’

Being uncertain as to the date of Christ’s return, means we are to be watchful, ever ready.  Out of the uncertainty comes a moral goal- to grow in holiness.  We are to be ready, active.  In the parable that follows the warning, we hear about the doorkeeper.  The watchfulness of the doorkeeper is the main point of the parable; he must stay awake and on duty, as must we.

v. 37: ‘And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

‘keep awake.’

This command had an effect on the Early Church.  The Greek word ‘gregoreite’ which means ‘be wakeful’ led to the name Gregory being chosen as a popular Christian name.

Keep alert, keep awake. 

One person who was alert, watchful, was St Lucia, or St Lucy.  In Sweden, the Christmas season is opened by St Lucia’s Day, on December 13th.  It is a festival of lights and candles.  St Lucia was a young girl who died for her Christian beliefs in the 4th century.  Every night she took food out to Christians who were hiding in caves, escaping persecution.  To keep her hands free to carry food, she fashioned a crown of candles, to give her light.  Sadly, one day she was caught by some soldiers, and killed.  To commemorate her good deeds, Sweden has a ritual. Early on St Lucia Day, the youngest girl in the family puts on a long white dress with a red sash.  On her head is a crown of seven candles, and she carries a tray of coffee, Lucia buns and ginger biscuits to each bedroom singing the Saint Lucia song.  One of the verses contains these words:

‘Hope glimmers through the gloom;

New life is stirring

In every silent room

Soft as wings whirring.’

Keep alert, watchful.  Stand up for your faith, whatever the cost.

Sounds nice, but this is the real world.  It’s fine for saints like Lucia, but surely we don’t measure up.  We’re just ordinary people

BUT

In today’s reading from Isaiah:

v.8: ‘Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.’

Take heart, have confidence.  We are God’s creation.  Indeed, we are the works of a great potter, a magnificent artist: the Creator.

God is more than the potter, more than the person who is fashioning us; God creates the raw material first, then moulds us.  God is part of every activity in our lives.  God knows what we are capable of doing and being and becoming.  We can’t all be like St Lucia, but we can be us.

We have been given gifts, all of us: discern them and use them.

Before Rabbi Zusia died, he said: ‘When I shall face the celestial tribunal, I shall not be asked why I was not Abraham, Jacob or Moses.  I shall be asked why I was not Zusia.’

Be yourselves; God has made each of us unique and special.  We are not asked to be another St Lucia, but we are to use our gifts.

We may not see out work in this lifetime, but we plant the seeds of hope in others; we may not live to see the tree-BUT it is God’s work, in God’s time.

Trust our potter, our creator.

Trust and use your God-given gifts.

These are some of the things we should be considering during Advent.  What are my gifts?  How can I use them? What sort of work is God preparing me for?  Am I ready, alert, watchful?

Am I reflecting on the comings of Jesus past, present, and future?

Is Jesus part of my life now, influencing my decisions and actions?

Alert, watchful, gifted.  Moulded by the Creator.

Advent: a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ in the past, when we celebrate Christmas, and when we wait and watch for the second coming, but also now, in the present.  We must ensure that Jesus is alive and active in our everyday lives.  This means making Christ our priority.  The matters of everyday can so easily take over, grabbing our spiritual time, our time for devotion, reflection, Bible reading.

If we do not spend time with God, how can we know and love God?

How can we feel that we are truly and deeply loved and cherished by God?

I wish to conclude with a story, a legend, which speaks about our priorities-getting them right.  It is a story about being watchful, alert, but then letting the daily tasks take over.

It is a warning.

Baboushka (or Babushka) (‘grandmother’ in Russian) was an old woman, very house proud, who always welcomed travellers passing by her cottage.  One winter morning, three richly dressed men asked for food and shelter.  She fed them and let them sleep there during the day.  When they awoke, Baboushka asked why they travelled at night.  “We are three kings from the East, following a star.” they answered.  “It is pointing the way to the Christ child.”

They asked Baboushka to accompany them to Bethlehem.  She said no, as she had to finish her housework.  But the next day, about to set off, she wondered about taking a toy to the new baby.  Her child had died young, but she had kept his toys, so she spent the next few days cleaning and repairing them.  Eventually Baboushka set off.  It took her months to reach Bethlehem, and when she did finally arrive, only the animals were in the stable.  When Baboushka saw the empty manger, she realized that Jesus was the most important thing in the world to her, and she is too late.  It is said that she is still looking for the Christ child.  Year after year she goes from house to house calling : “Is he here?  Is the Christ-child here?” She is still searching, still calling, leaving presents in case it is the right place.

A warning.

(and yes-housework CAN ALWAYS WAIT to be done!)

Be alert, watchful, gifted and ready.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Amen.

29.11.20

Prayers of the People

Jesus Christ, Son of God, you are the hope and light of the world.

You came promising justice, equality and salvation.

Hear us as we bring before you those who need your blessing today.

We pray for all who are mistreated because of the colour of their skin, or their religion, or race, those who are looked down on because of their supposed lack of intelligence.  We pray for those who are stigmatised because they are perceived as different.

O Christ, you see the value of every living being: teach us to value and love one another.

We pray for world leaders.

Give them hearts of compassion, minds of wisdom, and help them to speak words of peace.

We pray for our own country.

For those doing it tough on the land.

For those still recovering from the bushfires, nearly a year on.

For those who are ill, lonely, weighed down by worries, anxious about the future, for those suffering from mental illness, and for those dying.

We pray for our church community, for those who are ill, those who are frail, and for those who are apart from their families.

We pray for Leighmoor Uniting Church, and pray for their new minister Rev Heeyoung Kim.  Bless her, equip her for her new ministry, and grant that the church congregation and Heeyoung support, delight in, and love one another.

May they be a true and strong church family.

And in a time of silence, we remember other issues which need our prayers.

(silence)

Loving Lord, as we begin Advent, keeping watch for you, getting ready to celebrate your birthday at Christmas time, and delighting in your presence with us day by day, we join in the prayer you taught us:

‘Our Father…

Amen’

Blessing

Be alert.

May the blessing of the God of hope, who is with us on our Advent journey to the stable and beyond,

the blessing of Christ, our Loving Servant King, who came into this world as a vulnerable baby, 

and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, who keeps our souls and feet on the right path, 

help us to keep watch, in joyful anticipation, now and always.

Amen.

29.11.20

Friday Email 27-11-2020

Hello Faith Pals,

I have included my last sermon/service, and an item from Bill Pugh about angels.

News: Alan has had some good news.  The cancer cells have not been found in his organs, or in his lymph nodes, but they seem to be hiding in his bones.  His oncologist will be speaking to Peter Mac re further tests to see if Alan is suitable for targeted radiation therapy.  If this is not possible, other options will be considered.

Myrtle is to have surgery next year for her heart problems. She has a number of important tests lined up for early in the new year.

Lex: on the mend, slowly recovering from heart surgery.

Oh, it has reached that stage…which is good…because it means Heeyoung will be starting next week, and you will then have a permanent minister…but sad because I will miss you, you have found your way into my heart, even during this time of lockdown!

Oh I had so much I wanted to say, but it won’t come out right.  You are so wonderful and even though I have got to know you via the phone and the internet-that was sufficient for me to realize, and feel, the love from this church community. 

I will miss your laughter, your patience, your faith, your compassion…you are true pilgrims.

When I began, I thought I’d be caring for you through visits and Sunday worship.  Well, we do worship differently now (and we have learned that this is okay too-we can still worship and pray when we are physically absent from the church building). I feel cheated that I haven’t  had the opportunity to meet most of you in your homes, see your photographs etc.  BUT I think we have coped quite well.  The most important thing during lockdown was to keep each other safe…and you did that…without complaining.  Well done, thy good and faithful servants!  I have tried my best…if I have neglected anyone, I am truly sorry.

I have tried to keep your spirits up.  We have laughed, shared favourite books/films/music/Scripture etc.  You have put up with Kermit the frog, angels, my haiku, and my many ramblings. I never got to ask you what cartoon character you are most like, or would most like to be.  I think I am most like Grover, the furry blue monster from Sesame Streetwho just wants to love everyone, and comfort them.  Thank you for allowing me to love you.

I want to share a story, that I shared with several people yesterday:

The Seven Wonders of the World, author unknown

‘Junior high school students in Chicago were studying the Seven Wonders of the World. At the end of the lesson, the students were asked to list what they considered to be the Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following received the most votes:

1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids
2. The Taj Mahal in India
3. The Grand Canyon in Arizona
4. The Panama Canal
5. The Empire State Building
6. St. Peter’s Basilica
7. China’s Great Wall

While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student, a quiet girl, hadn’t turned in her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The quiet girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”

The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:

1. to touch…
2. to taste…
3. to see…
4. to hear… (She hesitated a little, and then added…)
5. to feel…
6. to laugh…
7. and to love.

The room was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop.

May this story serve as a gentle reminder to all of us that the things we overlook as simple and ordinary are often the most wonderful – and we don’t have to travel anywhere special to experience them.

Enjoy your gifts!’

When I conclude, I will tackle those boxes and mess in the lounge-I need room to put on the Christmas tree.  Did I tell you I love Christmas?  I am sure I have!

I have two books that I need to finish writing, one with a deadline that is looming, the other two years away (but time does go fast…faster as we get older).

Thank you for your care, love, and prayers for me, and also those for David.  If surgery happens in February, we will remain in isolation/lockdown until May because of his suppressed immune system.

I wanted to conclude with something profound. Oh you lovely band of faithful pilgrims, with pure hearts, and an ability to see God’s amazing world…I thought I would conclude with this quote.  It isn’t one from the Bible, indeed the spiritual teacher was not a Christian…but it sums up our calling:

We are here helping each other through life, and beside us is our friend and Saviour.