Make my heart brave. Make my back strong enough to carry my cross.
Thy kingdom come thy will be done. On heaven and earth
May my life be poured out. And my death give birth.
Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, September 6th 2020.
Service led by David Sang-Joon Kim Music led by the Worship Band
Romans 12:9-18 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
So together, gathered by our Loving God, we worship our God of Jesus Christ, whose life shows what life looks like when love is genuine. It is to live single-mindedly serving God who loves us with all of himself. It is to stand against what is evil, and to stand with those who rejoice and suffer in the work of God for wholeness. As we worship, come Holy Spirit, form in us the image of Christ, the image of God, that we may see thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
I invite you now to a time of prayerful reflection.
Prayerful Reflection: Make my heart brave
Make my back strong enough to carry my cross
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On heaven and earth
May my life be poured out
And my death give birth
Music: Thy Kingdom Come by John Lucas
Song: ‘Loving Spirit’
Welcome and Notices:
It’s father’s day today. And as a way of reflection, I want to revisit the prayer for others Adrienne prayed last Sunday. She gave thanks for the foresight with which our forefathers planted a garden in the middle of the city, which we enjoy today for its beauty and space and breath. The forefathers are long gone yet the vision of their foresight included their children and even those children who are not their own, like me.
Just look at this! Began some 90 years ago by our forefathers with 13,000 bulbs donated by the residents, at every autumn more bulbs are planted. Every spring daffodils bloom. And they bloom for our joy!
One day, you and I will end up like the forefathers planted six feet under. You and I will become forefathers, one day. When we become forefathers to the generation that come after us, what will be our legacy? What decision can we make, what can we do together as church today with foresight for our children to gift them with beauty, space and breath?
A prayer for us. May God bless us, to be bulbs that are planted to blossom for our children, that our foresight be beautiful, spacious and life giving for our children for their joy, to our joy, for the praise and glory of God who welcomes all!
Praying the Psalm:
We will pray a psalm together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. These words express the zeal with which the poet wishes to follow the way of God. The poet expresses the toiling for what is good, the work of resistance against what is evil. Eyes fixed on the way of love, holding fast to faithfulness, while turning away against falsehood, hypocrisy, and being in league with the wicked. Yet there is a painful reality that it seems evildoers thrive and are justified while he remains fruitless and accused. The first word in the line “Vindicate me, Lord,” is a lament, a struggle.
Why do the greedy and selfish and schemers and plotters thrive and are praised as wise and savvy? Why do the hard workers making an honest living have it tough and are accused of being fools? What is wrong with this world? How is it possible that those calling for justice are spun politically into public nuisance? Have you a story of being accused wrongly for standing up for what is right? Have you a story of being spun as the problem for choosing what is right? Where in this world do you see the need for God’s vindication?
Please respond with the words in bold.
Vindicate me, Lord,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind;
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.
I do not sit with the deceitful,
nor do I associate with hypocrites.
I abhor the assembly of evildoers
and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence,
and go about your altar, Lord,
proclaiming aloud your praise
and telling of all your wonderful deeds.
Lord, I love the house where you live,
the place where your glory dwells.
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: ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’
Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
What a difficult gospel reading we have heard proclaimed today! If you found yourself feeling uncomfortable as Jesus reprimand Peter with the words: “Get behind me, Satan,” if you found yourself feeling unsure as you hear Jesus calling the church to follow him picking up our own cross, if you found yourself wanting to keep at a distance Jesus’ words “those who lose their life for my sake will find it,” I want to acknowledge that this is not easy reading. This is not simple. If you found yourself nodding in affirmation of what Jesus says, can I respectfully challenge you not to take Jesus’ words lightly? We are in this journey together towards fuller faith responding to Jesus’ call to follow him, the one the church calls the eternal Son of the Living God, the saviour of the world.
I want to share with you a story and I hope that this story sheds light to our Gospel reading today. This is a story about a man named Janusz Korczak. Please watch this short video.
On 5 or 6 August 1942, German soldiers collected 193 orphans and about one dozen staff members of an orphanage to transport them to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland. Out came the children with Janusz Korczak, their principal. Holding a hand of an orphan child, with other 192 children following him close behind, Korczak marched down the German Ghetto as their father.
It didn’t have to be like this. Korczak had been offered sanctuary on the “Aryan side” by his friends in the Polish underground organization. They offered a lifeline to him repeatedly. Korczak turned down one offer after another, saying how can he, their father, abandon his children? On the night before the fateful day, he again refused offers of sanctuary, insisting that he would go with the children.
While they were in waiting at the deportation point to the death camps, Korczak was given another chance to live. There are different accounts. Regardless, whether it was through an SS officer who recognized Korczak as the author of his favourite children’s book and didn’t want a wonderful man die, whether it was through an official Nazi authority offering a “special treatment” as they had done for prominent Jews with international reputations, he was valued too highly to end up in a mass grave with the orphans. Whatever the offer, Korczak once again refused to find life without his children and so met his death with them.
So they marched down. The children were dressed in their best clothes, and each carried a blue knapsack and a favourite book or toy, following the one who offered himself to be their father. The now famous novel, The Pianist, accounts, “He told the orphans they were going out into the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood.”
I wonder why he didn’t choose to take the offer given him. Did it not sound like love of his friends? Did it not sound like a great opportunity? For Korczak it must have sounded like temptation, a seduction to be resisted. Perhaps, through the heart of Korczak, life without his children, is not life at all. His life saved, yet his children tormented with terror, lost and fatherless, his life saved, yet his children murdered, is no life at all. Though he wasn’t really their father, he believed they were his children. This must have been true for him. How else would he have made such drastic decision to be by the orphans’ side to comfort them, to give them dignity against those powers that rubbish them, to mingle his fate with theirs?
If this was true for him, can you imagine how angry he would have been at the suggestion from his admirers and from his so-called friends to leave the children and save his own life? How his heart would have pounded with hate for such idea? How he would have burned with rage to even contemplate that his life is worth saving while the orphans are dispensed with? How he would have been incensed that they would dare to suggest that he shake hands with those who seek to destroy his children?
Does Janusz Korczak’s heart and resolve and death give us an insight to Jesus and his claims here in our Gospel reading? Jesus the eternal Son of the Living God, comes to us, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, to be with us, to claim us as his children, he stands with us in the midst of hell loosed in our world by those who profit from it. This very face of God, the image of God, the one who offers his Father in heaven as our own, whose love is perfect, whose love is faithful, all suggestion that he must not die, while his children are malnourished, enslaved, left for dead, murdered, killed as necessary evil, would must have been heard as a seduction, a temptation, like at the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, where he was tempted to act contrary to the way of the Son of God, like at the garden where he will be seduced once again to shake hands with the devil. He is enraged, incensed by such evil thought, he will resist with holy anger, “Away with you, Satan!”
Jesus knows he must die at the hands of those who want the world this way, for this is how they treat those who oppose their way that profits them. This is how they treat his children; Jesus has intertwined his fate with his children. There can be no compromise. No. Jesus burns with anger because of his love for the children of God. Jesus, the Saviour, the Son of the Living God, God in our own flesh and bones, mingles his fate with ours. He dies our death with us. Jesus leads the way, Jesus marches ahead of us.
Jesus’ call to us to follow him is not a submission to powers that oppose God. Rather what Jesus offers is a resistance. It is a resistance that refuses to be beaten into submission to believe that life of oppression and suffering is all that life is. It is a resistance against becoming a mere brick that holds up the world where inequality and injustice profits. Jesus leads the way to show that life is found not by being in league with those powers of evil and oppression but by being in solidarity with those who are oppressed.
Jesus calls us to believe the truth that the life of those who take life and build their own life on the backs of others is not life at all. Rather life is truly life when our love is genuine, when our love burns with hate against that which is evil, when our love will not allow us to shake hands with the perpetrators and compromise by justifying oppression of others. And he promises us that God will vindicate those of us who live by this truth. God will indeed vindicate us. For if Jesus must die at the hands of those who want the world to be unfair as it profits them, then he must also be raised to life.
Yes. Janusz Korczak’s words to his children are Jesus’ words to us as we follow him in this resistance. We are being led out into the country, so we ought to be cheerful. At last we are able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where we could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. So we ought to put on our best clothes, and come out into world, two by two, side by side, hand in hand, standing in solidarity against the powers that profit from our pain and suffering.
As Jesus mingles his fate with ours, our destiny becomes trail-blazed by him, his way becomes ours. Resurrection is also our promise. So friends, do you confess that Jesus is the Saviour, Jesus is the eternal Son of the Living God, let us follow him. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus, the face of God. Let us keep our hearts fastened to his, the love of God for the world. Friends, be emboldened and strengthened by Jesus paving the way of love before us, and for us, leading us to life. Be spurred on by his single minded, unswerving zeal for love. See how he is not afraid, how he will not falter, how he will give his life for us, to be with us. Let us follow him.
Yes, if we follow Jesus, if we resist, we will lose out. If we deal honestly rather than being cunning, if we share our wealth for the sake of commonwealth rather than hoard for ourselves, if we put people first rather than profit, if we seek to become a shelter for the fatherless rather than build a palace for ourselves, by this world’s standards we will not become rich and powerful. If we stand for the cause of the poor and the oppressed, if we stand for the cause of equality and justice, our fate will be mingled with those we stand with. But friends, Jesus says that is where life is, for there Jesus is, the one who saves and vindicates those who suffer for the sake of justice and equality, the kingdom of God.
Music Reflection: Son of God by John Lucas
Song: ‘How Great is your Love’
Sharing of the Peace of Christ: Peace of Christ be with you
Song of Sending: ‘Like a Rock’
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