How does helping with love look, feel, taste like?
Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, August 9th, 2020.
Service led by David Sang-Joon Kim.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So together, gathered by our God, we worship our God of Jesus Christ. As we worship, may all our speech, our knowledge, our faith, our service, be shed of boastfulness and find it’s purpose and fulfillment in love for the work of God’s hands are established in love. The love, with which we are loved by God, is without condescending arrogance but full of humility of empathy and solidarity with us in the humanity of Jesus. May this humble love establish the work of our hands for this we the church is called to be Christ to the world.
Prayerful Reflection: How does helping with love look, feel, taste like?
If you don’t build it, we labour in vain,
But the works of Your hands
Are what will remain.
O, Lord, establish the work of our hands
For only what’s done in love will remain.
Music: Establish the Work of our hands by The Porter’s Gate
Song: O for a thousand tongues
Welcome and Notices
Praying the Psalm
We will pray a psalm together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. The Psalm sings of a yearning – a yearning for things to be right, a yearning for wholeness, for peace. The poet knows that his nation that was established to be a blessing for all is broken, needs mending. So, the poet prays for the meeting together of love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace, for such will heal the land, heal the people. However, this coming together, this work of unity, cannot be realised just by human hands. Heaven and earth must come together too. The harvest of goodness as promised by God in the work of peace is realised by the coming together of God and his people.
Where do you see in our world, our nation, our neighbourhood, our community that needs mending for wholeness, for peace? What must meet together, come together? Young and old, the poor and the rich, women and men, church and society, humans and nature, God and people. How can we meet together in love and faithfulness, righteous and peace? Let our yearning come before our God as we pray the psalm together. Please respond with the words in colour.
Psalm 85: 8-13
I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants –
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
Prayer for others
We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together [offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]:
Offering & Dedication Prayer
Song: Take my gifts and let me love you
Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
At the beginning of the worship service, we started with the words of 1 Corinthians 13. It is very well known. But you know how sometimes what you thought you knew takes on a different meaning? It may be a novel you read so many times before but this time around it seems different. it may be your favourite story in the bible but this time around it seems different.
I always thought love equals service. I always thought love equals helping. I always thought to give a hand is love. But according to 1 Corinthians 13, that is not true enough. You can give everything to the poor yet if you have no love it is nothing. You can help without love, and it means nothing or you can help with love and it means everything.
“A help is a help,” I remember someone saying to me. “If they are not willing to receive it, well obviously they are not desperate enough.” My gut wrenches when I hear something like that. To me it almost sounds like “they should know their place and be grateful for what I am giving them.” Is this what it means to help without love?
I wonder whether you have been in the receiving end of this. Or even whether you have said something like this to someone. I do think there is a way to help that is actually helpful and there is a way to help that is actually hurtful. We can help to the extent that it feeds our ego, or we can help to the extent that it feeds and grows a community.
As Jesus came to the shore, after spending sometime in his quiet place, he saw people, who had come out to see him. He had compassion for them. A simple word compassion but it is a powerful thing that moves Jesus into action. Perhaps this is an aspect of love. What moves us to act? Do I help because to help someone makes me a good person, makes me feel good or is it out of compassion.
Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Compassion is intensely relational. It’s not about heroism, it is about meeting together, coming together, that leads us to act together to relieve the suffering we face. It is about coming along side someone rather than standing over them. It is about solidarity rather than problem solving.
However, compassion, “to suffer together,” coming together of people, leads to action to relieve the suffering together. Interestingly, it says that Jesus cured “their” sick. Jesus moved by compassion, moved by love, moved by solidarity with the people, moved to act, moved to help but the sick were presented to him by “them.” Who are them? The people brought their sick to Jesus. Their family, their friends, their neighbours, the people who cared for them, people who had compassion and came together with their neighbour in need, a caring neighbour.
Then something curious happens. Evening came. The disciples realise that there is no place here for people to find food to eat. If night falls, people will be hungry. So they think ahead. They make a very good case and reasonable case and ask Jesus to send the people away so that they can buy food for themselves. Jesus responds to the disciples’ reasonable observation and concern by saying: “you give them something to eat.” In this request of Jesus I see three important dynamic.
First, the disciples can no longer stand aside, stand aloof, and just watch. With Jesus’ request to the disciples the people who have come with their sick to Jesus are no longer anyone but someone. We are to draw near now. We are to be moved by compassion, moved by their suffering, stand in solidarity with them. In this sense, Jesus asks us to help with love, not anyone, but someone, these people at hand. This someone is a particular person, of particular circmstances and here and now. If we are to help in love, we are to know, we are to relate, become their caring neighbour.
Secondly, there is an amazing privilege and mystery in Jesus’ request. As Jesus offers these people to us, for us to help with love, feed and nourish, we become the hands of Christ. As we draw near to the people, we become one with Christ. We are not anyone but someone to Christ, just as the people to whom we draw near become our neighbour. We are the people who bears the love of Christ, with which we love those we draw near to.
Thirdly, we often see what we lack rather than what we have. Alarmed, the disciples were, they say: “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” Five loaves and two fish, it is nothing when the need is so much greater. But it is something. We are overwhelmed and paralysed by the impossible amount of need to be met and our response is “we have nothing.” What Jesus asks of us is to share from what we have with the people here and now.
In this sense, we are not to over analyse, over plan, over think it, here are the people, and this is what we have, be moved by compassion, stand in solidarity with them, suffer together with them, and by coming together, find a way, with the gifts and resources we have, for we are Christ’s hands and feet. But do not forget, when the people of God come together with Christ and the people to whom we are called to help with love, miracles happen, miracles of abundace and miracles of generosity, miracles of community.
Here in this story of Jesus, then, we have a model of helping with love.
So who are the people to whom Christ is asking us to help with love? Who are the people here and now to whom with compassion we are asked to draw near especially today in Avonhead?
Friends, over the lockdown, the ministers of our neighbourhood, Avonhead, Michael from St. Christopher’s, Bruce from Avonhead Baptist and myself, began talking over zoom about economic hardship that people will face. After the lockdown, the three of us in our different spheres got to speak to people who have been affected by it, losing jobs, having to find job in another town, impacting on their family life. With the wage subsidy coming to an end in September, and economic forecasts looking gloom, more families and households will end up in this dire situation. we wondered what we could do together as the three churches for people in our neighbourhood of Avonhead in particular.
As our conversations ensued, other people joined in on the conversation, some people from each congregation felt the need and formed a group to mobilise to meet the rising need. From our church, Stewart Gavin has joined in on this group.
Here are the people in need, in suffering, stand in solidarity with them, come along side be their friend and find a way forward together with what we have. And perhaps, along the way we will meet Jesus, our God, who provides abundantly.
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes with which He sees
Yours are the feet with which He walks
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands
Music: Christ has no body but yours by
David Ogden, Sung by Exultate Singers
Communion Song: Come to the feast
Sharing of the Peace of Christ: Peace of Christ be with you
Song of Sending: May the roads rise with you
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever. Amen