Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, February 21st, 2021.

Service taken by Paula Stevens owing to David Sang-Joon Kim being ill.

1 Peter 3:18

Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. We mark this season of the church to focus on and contemplate the suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus’ death on the cross being the pinnacle, we contemplate the mystery of our salvation God fulfilled in and by Jesus our Christ, our Saviour. Friends, let us come to God in humility before this mystery. Let us place ourselves before Jesus, the God in our humanity, the God in our own shoes, who does not spare his life that we may have his life.

‘Christ in the Wilderness’ by Edward Knippers

Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

Song: ‘In Christ Alone My Hope Is Found’

Welcome and Notices:

Praying the Psalm:

In this part of the service we pray a psalm together. We listen in on the story from which the psalm arises in order to pray these words for us and for the world. We will pray the beginning section of Psalm 25 together. Before we do, I will provide some background.

Psalm 25 is a very personal prayer. It begins with placing the deepest and the truest of one’s being, the soul, in the presence of God and placing one’s fate in the hands of God. The prayer resolves to be on the path that is God’s way and seeks it as long as it takes for God’s paths are steadfast love and faithfulness. This is remarkable because the psalm seems to suggest that the unthinkable may be about to happen – those who seek his destruction and would do so deliberately do not feel the shame of their despicable ways. On the verge of such injustice, the prayer sincerely asks to walk along God’s path of love.

People of God, can we make this prayer ours? When we are faced with injustice, when we are tempted to choose the path of revenge, the path of destruction, will we resolve ourselves to be on the path of God that is steadfast love?

Let us pray the psalm together. Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 25:1-10 (abridged for worship)

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  My God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.

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: ‘He Came Singing Love’

Scripture: Mark 1:9-15

New Revised Standard Version

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Choir: ‘Forty Days and Forty Nights’

Sermon Reflection

“You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Here is the one who is loved by God. The Son is dearly loved, very much loved by his Father. The story of the Good News as Mark tells it, has – at its very beginning – love. Everything that happens from here on, has to do with love – the outworking of divine love in the stage of God’s creation, our earth, our world.

Love is a precarious thing. It goes by many faces. It was Valentine’s Day last Sunday. The kind of love we see expressed on Valentine’s Day is a romantic one. David Sang-Joon actually does think the romantic side of love is important. It expresses a side of love that is extravagant. Couples give gifts for this reason. Many of us may protest that this is all consumerism gone mad. But hear David Sang-Joon out here.

He gave Lisa a gift on Sunday. It was a small box of macarons. It’s a treat that she doesn’t get to have often. She was so delighted. She didn’t expect to receive a gift from him. To tease her, David Sang-Joon asked her: “Do you know why I’m giving you a gift?” She said: “It’s Valentine’s Day.” Immediately, he protested! “No!” Sure, Lisa got it right to a certain extent but really she had missed the whole point: “No, for Love’s sake! It’s not because of Valentine’s Day, it’s because I loves you.” He scored a point there and a loving hug!

Love has no reason. There is no logic to it. There are no strings attached. There is no agenda. It is “just because.” Without this, it isn’t love. It’s something else. Here is the beloved. Jesus hasn’t done anything that can be pointed to suggest that Jesus has earned love. It’s just because. Love is extravagant. In this way, love is a strong motivating force that is unforced and voluntary, that goes outwards without expectation of a return.

The danger with gift giving and words, however, is when our actions betray the love we portray. Gift giving and our words are not the problem. They are actually necessary to communicate love but alone they remain empty. It is the outworking of the love we portray in life that shows the essence of this love. Perhaps along this line, we can say Jesus is the love of God towards us. Love in flesh. God in Jesus enters our world as one of us so that God’s love is not mere words but Word of Love in flesh and bone to walk the talk.

The story of the Good News that the kingdom of God has come near is first and foremost a love story. A love story between God and God’s world, with humanity in particular. God gives himself to us neither because it is responsible thing to do nor it is a kind thing to do. God gives himself to us in Jesus because God loves us. Mark sets the scene for the drama of God’s love for us in the theatre of divine love that is our world.

However, in this story, it doesn’t seem to be a straightforward love story of God giving gift to humanity. It says that for God’s voice of love to be heard the heavens must be torn open. Let’s just imagine this for a moment. God ripping the heavens open to speak to us that we are beloved. God must make a way in to a closed off area, a heavily fortified place.

God infiltrates to rescue God’s love. There is something that holds God’s lover captive from him. We see God’s determination to make a way through and be reunited with God’s lover. Once God infiltrates, God goes on the assault straight to the heart of that which holds us captive, to the very epicentre, the stronghold called the wilderness, and the enemy personified as Satan and wild beasts.

What is the world God enters? Though God created the world for love, our world reflects things that are on the contrary. When the magnitude of the atrocities of wars historic and present, the dismay of people dying of starvation, lies bare for all of us to see while we live in relative tranquility and, in fact, while we try to save ourselves from junk food and eating too much, we are left stunned: “How can this be?”

The magnitude of suffering, hatred, violence, and indifference is such that it is simply inexplicable; it is unbelievable. We wonder whether our world is indeed made with love and for love. It is hard to believe that God is love, that God intends love. Perhaps even if we once believed in God of love, we deny God. Or if we once believed in humanity, we are left scratching our heads.

We can blame individuals for the evil we see. Hitler is responsible for the murder of 6 million people. Yet over centuries Jews have been scapegoated, over generations one ethnic group sought ascendancy over others. We can blame a nation. China is responsible for the pollution that is quickening climate change. Yet when was the last time we bought something that wasn’t made in China? Of course, it is important that we see justice served against those who perpetrate. However, it is shortsighted to believe that we have overcome evil, therefore.

In the scriptures, we are told that “our struggle is not against enemies of blood flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Whatever this might actually mean, one thing is for sure… God does not consider us as enemies, the problem of evil. This is not to shift blame, this is not to be blinded to the evil we perpetrate. This is to say that humanity is not ultimately responsible.

There is evil that is inexplicable to humanity. So this story of love, the story of Good News, tries to illustrate what God does for us because of love and against what is evil. Because evil is inexplicable, rather than an explanation, the story is told so that the truth of what God does, is heard.  That God does not hold humanity responsible for the horror of evil ultimately. But also to tell the truth about God’s love, the extent of God’s love for us. God will not abandon us to the tyranny of an evil that we cannot explain but we shall be freed from its grip to love, so that we may continue the drama of divine love on earth, the theatre of God’s love.

Our world reflects a world that is dangerous and scarce. Dangerous like the wild where threat of death lurks, and scarce like a desert where life seems impossible. If love reflects extravagance and abundance and desire, our world reflects the opposite – barrenness shortage, and lust.

Therefore, it is significant that as we enter into Lent, a time of reflecting on the mystery of God’s love and salvation in and through Jesus Christ, that we begin with these words that the Beloved is driven out into the wilderness of humanity – the place that is bereft of love, the place that represents the sum of all that is ugly, distorted, and deceptive, the epicentre of all that is contrary to God’s intention for love. To this very place, Jesus, the Beloved, is sent, the greatest of all gifts, the most extravagant of all that love can give, God gives himself to us. God gives unto us even to be tempted and threatened by the powers and forces in our world that deceives us to believe that in order to live we must suck life out of others.

As we journey through Lent, and arrive at the foot of the cross of Jesus on Good Friday, may this story shape how we behold the one crucified, our gift, the very God who takes up the wilderness of our world on his shoulders. Amen.

Song: ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross’

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

Song of Sending: ‘Now Unto Him’ [Folder]


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.