We’re all stained glass windows, bracing for the stones

Teach me forgiveness, mercy, mercy for my own skin

For every brother, every stranger, holds the face of God

Let the light come in

 

Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof)

Sunday, August 30th 2020.

Service led by David Sang-Joon Kim                                                   Pianist: Lorraine Tie

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

So together, gathered by our Loving God, we worship our God of Jesus Christ, who calls us to be holy, to be set apart for God’s will. As we worship, Spirit of God transform us, in mind and in spirit, to be led in offering our lives in true and proper worship to our God, patterned after Christ Jesus. For Christ shows us that God’s will for us, for his beloved world is good, pleasing and perfect.

I invite you now to a time of prayerful reflection. Please engage with my offering prayerfully. How you choose to engage with it, I leave that up to you.

Prayerful Reflection:

We’re all stained glass windows, bracing for the stones

Teach me forgiveness, mercy, mercy for my own skin

For every brother, every stranger, holds the face of God

Let the light come in

Music: Stained Glass by John Lucas                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIUmlEPp5JI

Song:                                                                ‘You Have Called Us’

Welcome and Notices

Praying the Psalm:

We will pray a psalm together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. This psalm knows the God, who is worthy of praise. A discerning heart knows the one who deserves praise. Not merely a god, but the God who is known by the ways of unfailing love and faithfulness to us. This is a psalm of praise that arises from an experience of this love. Even now in the midst of anger of enemies, this love holds him. This is the love that makes him face the future emboldened to obey God’s word of love and faithfulness, defiant against the world that will not. For such is the God worthy of our praise, our world shall reflect his glory patterned after his ways of love and faithfulness.

Who is the God you worship? Is it the God of love and faithfulness? Search in your heart of that love that you have received. Be held by it. Let it’s light shine through you that our lives reflect this love to others. Let us pray the psalm together praising the God of love and faithfulness for this God and this God alone shall be the face the world sees in us.

Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 138:1-8

I give you praise, Lord, with all my heart;

  before all that poses as god, I sing your praise;

For your unfailing love and your faithfulness

  I give you praise for who you are

When I called, you answered me,

  you strengthened my soul. 

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, Lord,

  for they shall obey your word of love and faithfulness.

For great is the glory of the Lord,

  they shall sing of the ways of the Lord.

Though you are exalted,

  Lord, you look kindly on the lowly

Though lofty,

  Lord, you search and see them from afar

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve my life.

You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;

with your right hand you save me.

The Lord will vindicate me;

your love, Lord, endures forever

Prayer for others:

We respond by singing the Lord’s Prayer together [offering to be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]:

Offering and Dedication Prayer:

Song:                                                             ‘Every Day’

 Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Sermon reflection:

The last two Sundays we have looked into stories of Jesus that speak of faith. First we looked into the story of the disciples caught in a storm out in the lake in chapter 14. Then we looked into the story of an encounter with a Canaanite woman with a daughter in distress in chapter 15. In both of these stories, when we look at the story as a whole, faith has an important orientation towards community.

When Jesus reprimands Peter for his little faith, it isn’t really about the size of his faith, the efficacy of his faith, the strength of his faith, rather it is that he leaves his community behind seeking salvation for himself in a time of crisis. Jesus looks for a fuller faith that encompasses his community. When Jesus praises the Canaanite woman of her great faith, once again it isn’t about utilizing her faith, rather it is about the weight of the confession of faith of the God we claim to believe in and how this confession of faith actually impacts our lives with and in our community.

To remind us of the Canaanite woman’s greatness of her faith, as a woman in a man’s world, as a person of ancestry whose people have committed acts of atrocity against Israel, the Canaanite woman had to cross the social, cultural and historical boundaries to approach Jesus, a man, an ancestral enemy. But because she does, Jesus engages with her in a courageous conversation about God and the boundary of God’s community. This conversation leads to the Canaanite woman imploring Jesus to be who you’ve always said you are. ‘Aren’t you the God who breaks down walls that keep people apart?’

Her great faith cannot be underestimated. Though it is between individuals, nonetheless, it is between men and women, between Jew and Gentile, between Israelite and Canaanite. She has provided the way for reconciliation between man and woman, between Jews and Gentiles, between Israel and Canaan. Though it may seem insignificant, in this courageous conversation, together with Christ, she has opened the gate for all people as the recipient of God’s grace and mercy, she has paved the way for peace.

In today’s gospel reading, we hear Jesus teaching his disciples about faith and in doing so uses the images of gate, key, being bound and being loosed. I want us to reflect on these together for gaining a further understanding of fuller faith. As much as faith has been an important theme in the gospel stories we have referred to in the previous chapters, this teaching of the disciples by Jesus, can be understood as a moment of pausing to reflect on what they have experienced and encountered so far.

Image of gate is important in the Gospels. Jesus is referred to the gate for his sheep in the book of Gospel according to John. In Matthew, we have talked about the narrow gate that leads to a narrow road but to life and the wide gate which leads to a wide road but to destruction. Jesus was pointing to the Triumphal gate of Rome whose road is wide, bulldozed for chariots, cavalries and infantry to process in.

It isn’t coincidence then that Jesus speaks about gate here once again. We are told that Jesus has entered into the district of Caesarea Philippi. As the name of the district suggests, it is named after Caesar. Philip, the governor, has named it in honour of Caesar. Jesus reflects and teaches his disciples about a gate again with the backdrop of a district that bears the name of destruction for Israel and Palestine. The symbolic heart of a life of peace beaten into submission by Rome’s way, Rome’s gate, which brings in it’s enforcers.

A gate is used to let something in or keep something out. So the Canaanite woman can be said to have opened the gate with Christ for who have been for so long kept apart by a wall of cultural, social, historical and traditional animosity. By opening the gate through reconciliation, a way of peace has been paved. A key similarly speaks of keeping something locked or opening. In that sense what is at stake here is about binding or loosening. What needs to be stopped and what needs to be let in. Let’s keep this in mind.

Jesus begins the reflection and teaching by inviting the disciples to reflect about what people say about him: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Comparing Jesus to prophets, especially symbolically significant prophets of old and more recent prophet of influence, people obviously hold Jesus in high regard. After hearing this, Jesus puts the question of his identity to his disciples. It begins with “But…” Sure, this is what people say, but what about you? But who do you say I am?

Peter on behalf of the disciples say: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” With the backdrop of Caesarea-Philippi, the ideological heart of Rome’s rule, such a confession of faith is a shocking one. Caesar was worshiped as the son of god, with his shrines in prevalent spaces. To say Jesus is the Son of God is a direct refusal of Caesar’s world and Caesar’s way of peace. It is a subversive statement. What’s more, the Son of the living God, is to claim Caesar and his god that war-mongering, megalomaniac, whose peace comes by force, is no living god, rather a dead god, not a god at all. Yet, Jesus is, the Son of the Living God, God’s Salvation, the one who stands over and against the evil, oppressive powers of this world.

To this confession of faith, Jesus builds his church, not mine, not yours, not theirs, but his. As much as the faith that Peter speaks of is not his but been revealed to him by Jesus’ Father in heaven, the building of the church is God’s doing. And it is built by God upon a rock of this confession of faith, that Jesus is God’s Salvation. But it is not through words alone. It is through those who confess who Jesus is and who do what Jesus says. Remember, Jesus’ parable. Those who obey the word of Jesus are those who build their house upon a rock. Jesus’ building blocks of Jesus’ church are the people who confesses that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, God’s Salvation, and live accordingly. So, what does it mean to live accordingly to this faith that Jesus is God’s Salvation?

Jesus says something remarkable: “the gates of Hades will not prevail…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus speaks of his church, who confesses Jesus as the Son of the Living God, as those who will lock the gates of Hades stopping it and those who holds the key to let the kingdom of heaven in. God’s will for the Church of Jesus Christ is to stop the darkness of destruction, death, at the gate, and let loose the light of Christ shine. What does this look like?

As Jesus and the disciples have encountered and experienced an example of a fuller faith in the Canaanite woman, stopping the darkness of Hades, and letting loose the light of Christ is a work of reconciliation. Just as through this individual and particular encounter was the gateway for God’s Salvation to truly reach the ends of the earth, men and women, young and old, Jew and Gentile, enemies and foes, present and the past, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour wills us to engage in courageous conversations that crosses the boundaries of gender, culture, society, and generations. As you and I live out the faith that Jesus is Salvation of God for the world, that is by his Spirit, as we resolve ourselves to forgive those who have done us wrong and repent for those whom we have harmed, we are stopping hate and violence at its door and opening the gate for the light of hope and love and peace of Christ to come in.

Who do you say Jesus is? If we confess that Jesus is God’s Salvation to the world, the eternal Son of the Living God, then let us be those who stand over and against powers of evil and destruction with Christ. May we not be conformed to this world that points us to those that pose as gods but be patterned after the true living God we meet in Jesus Christ. This begins with particular people we encounter and engaging sincerely with who they are. Like stained glass, will we let light patterend after Christ in to the world through us? This is true and proper worship of God of Jesus Christ, whose will for the world is love.

Song:                                                             ‘God is Our Strength and Refuge’

Sharing of the Peace of Christ:                      Peace of Christ be with you

Song of Sending:                                           ‘Like a Rock’

Benediction:   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.