I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.  Jeremiah 31:32-34

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

Suffering – Price of obedience and loyalty to God in a world that refuses God’s will.

Heart – “the deadly root of man’s inhumanity to man, the source of all human violence, is in the wickedness of the human heart, and it is there that it must be undone. That is why God…took the meek and lowly way of incarnational and atoning activity to open up the human heart to God and ground reconciliation within the depths of human being. That was the one way of healing and recreating what he had made, when it went wrong.” – T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 41

Only God can deal with human sin-full-ness.

More importantly, God has ordained that Christ remain a “priest forever.” That is, Christ occupies multiple eschatological [relating to death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind] roles — ruling and judging, sure, but also interceding. The dual role of Christ might seem paradoxical in practice, but in Christ, the dissonant finds harmony. It is no wonder that the author must reach for an obscure foreign ruler as an example of Christ’s purpose and role. Christ’s ability to fulfill multiple and somewhat contradictory roles is precisely what makes him Christ. Therefore, the contradictions are not a stumbling block but a confirmation that Christ is the ground of hope in a contradictory world.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Friends, we continue in our Lenten journey where we are invited to be centered in Christ once again. To be centered in Christ once again requires the realism of seeing how we are decentered. However, this invitation is not a call to legalistic guilt tripping. Rather it is to, once again, own our identity as the people of God fully – that is to own our place in the relationship between God and his people. God doesn’t consider us his mere subjects, God loves us and cares for us to the extent that we are to understand the relationship in light of a partnership between husband and wife. It’s not about keeping score rather it is about the desire of how we can make it work, what we can do to be together. So here are words of consolation and hope to us from God that God will recapture our hearts which have gone astray. A time will come when our hearts will be the very place of the fountain of the knowledge of God, the dwelling place of the Spirit of Christ, who fulfills the law of love.


Sacred Heart by Steve Gamba

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.  Jeremiah 31:32-34

Choir: God be in my Head by John Rutter

God be in my head, and in my understanding;

God be in my eyes, and in my looking;

God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;

God be in mine heart, and in my thinking;

God be at mine end, and in my departing.

Song: ‘Tell Out My Soul’

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 Psalm 51 together. Before we do, I will provide some background.

This psalm arises from a great internal struggle, a striving for a pure heart. This striving is because the poet fears that God may leave on account of his sin. The poet comes face to face with his own brokenness and sin. There is dismay at the persistence of sin as if stained by it, as if we were born this way. So God is implored, God whose love is unfailing. For even in the womb God is present to us. There is a resounding hope that God will not leave us in this state, that God will recreate and renew us, cleanse us of our stains to be what God has always intended – pure hearted with a steadfast spirit. God will not leave us in despair but restore to us joy, willing us and sustaining us.

Family of God, do we strive for a pure heart? Have you been dismayed by the persistence of brokenness and sin in our world and in our inner thoughts, in our way of being towards one another? At times in your shame and guilt do you fear that God will leave your side? Let us come to God who created us, who can recreate us. Let us be bathed in God’s love and compassion. Let us bare all to the one who does not leave our side as we see in Jesus Christ, our God, our brother, who comes to us in our own shoes to recreate and restore our being from the inside out. With a penitent heart and a resounding hope let us pray the psalm together.  Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Prayer for Others:

We will now be led in a 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: ‘Take My Life and Let It Be’

Scripture: John 12:20-32 (New International Version)

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Sermon Reflection:

Jesus says: “Now my soul is troubled.” There are different ways to describe one’s trouble. We could say, “I am troubled”. Or we could say, “my heart is troubled”. What do you think is the difference between the two? We say things like, “my heart is full of joy”, “my mind is distracted”. Isn’t this interesting? We often do this, don’t we? There could be many reasons or meaning to this way of speaking. When we think of the occasions we would refer to our heart or mind or soul, I think it is true that in many cases we do this to indicate the depth of our emotions that feels the full weight and gravity of the situation.

“Now my soul is troubled,” Jesus says. At the deepest level of his being, his identity, Jesus comes face to face with the hour that which awaits him. What hour is this? The time has come upon Jesus, the hour has come for him to do what he has indeed come, ultimately, to do. Though at the core of his being, Jesus is troubled, there is resolution on the part of Jesus to see this through. We know of the hour that has come. The very thing that troubles him in the most profound way is that his death is near, his death on the cross. Jesus is on the way to the cross, which will define his journey, his way of life, as the way of the cross.

I wonder what motivates him in this most resolute way though he is troubled in his very being. Could it be it’s because he knows that in the end he will live? Though he dies, he will live, this is true. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be raised to life from the grave. However, if we can infer what motivates him from what he says here, Jesus doesn’t place emphasis on his resurrection as what motivates him to carry on. Rather, what we see here is Jesus pointing to his desire to glorify his Father. Jesus the Son has made his resolve to walk the way of the cross, the way of bearing his suffering, unswerving because through it his Father will be glorified.

The word glory is interesting. When we talk about glory, we often talk about it in a manner of achievement and recognition, fame and honor. In the Scriptures, the word glory is used to capture this sense of the word too to a certain extent. However, it is rarely used unsparingly. Rather it is almost always used uniquely to God alone. And, in fact, it is used in the context of revealing who God is, that is in the context of seeing God as God truly is. God being glorified is for all the world to know God truly for who he is indeed – to know God from the heart, from the mind, from the soul, from the depth of our being. So, what will be revealed truly about God in and through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection?

Jesus says: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” The phrase being lifted up is used here as a collective description referring to his suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection. In other words, Jesus’ way of the cross will draw all people to him. We can see here that Jesus’ resolve to walk the way of the cross is so that people will be drawn to him. There is a desire on the part of God to be near us, who desires to be with us. So the Father’s glorification is intricately connected to this end. The Father and the Son considers it divine glory to be with the people of God. This glory of God, God’s determination to be with us will be revealed to the hearts of the people in and through Jesus’ way of the cross, his suffering, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. And this is the way God saves us.

We may wonder how this is possible? Scripture doesn’t explain the mechanics of our salvation. We are not told how Jesus’ way of the cross saves us. What Scripture proclaims is that Jesus’ way of the cross indeed saves us. This is God’s way of saving us. This is why we call Jesus’ way of the cross the mystery of salvation. However, if the way of the cross is divine way of our salvation we can infer important understanding of what God does in Jesus and his way of the cross.

Jesus says that “now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” Although there is a theological thought that understands this literally, while not dismissing this, I understand it this way. I understand the reference to the ruler here symbolically. In other words, I understand that there is a rule of life, a law of life, a way of life that is contrary to the way of life as God created and intended for us. There are systems and principles by which we live that lead to a life that has, as its consequence, death. However, the way of life that God has created is a life that creates life, a way of life that is life-giving.

Life that God created for us from the very beginning of creation, is intended as a life of wholeness, life of peace, life of abundance together with God and with one another and with all of God’s creation; this is the way of life of love. Yet there is a way of life in this world that stands in the way of wholeness, peace and abundance. We live in a world that advocates self-centeredness, self-gratification on the back of others and tribalism and nationalism at the cost of others. Such a life leads to brokenness, division and wastefulness, in other words, leads us to the path of destruction and death.

When a way of life, which leads to death, comes head to head with the way of life that is life-giving, there is a risk to be faced, a price to be paid. When we choose the way of love, we wade up against the main current of this world. This brings trial and opposition to us. This will trouble our soul just as it did Jesus. This is why Jesus says “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

I want to share a story with you. I trust that this may give us a way into understanding Jesus’ resolve to walk the way of cross, in spite of his troubled soul at the face of his own death. How God glories in being with us and for love Jesus will bear its price in the world that refuses and opposes love. In the last month or so, Myanmar has been in political turmoil with a military coup. In the process of taking power, the military and the police that are supposed to be protecting the country, has turned into the enemy of the people, killing innocent citizens through sheer thuggery and through planned murder through snipers. In one town, as violence has spread, in the midst of it all, in the great gulf between the police and the protesting citizens, a Roman Catholic nun stands in the way.

The way of the cross that Jesus walks is the divine way that saves and leads us into life that is life-giving. God is glorified because in Jesus the Son reveals to the world the Father who saves us through the way of love. God’s glory is in saving us from the powers and principalities that holds sway over us. God’s glory is in liberating us from the grips of death to the life of love. God’s glory is in seeing us for who we are and who we are meant to be, even if it means for Jesus the Son to take upon himself in his humanity all that is contrary to the life God freely gives and invites us to. Jesus pays the price of love ultimately in a world where God’s will is refused.

Jesus willingly walks the way of suffering and death not because of his sense of responsibility or obligation. He does so because of divine love for us, love unswerving, love that is faithful even unto death. Jesus in his humanity understands us and is troubled in the face of suffering and death as we would in our times of trial. On the cross-road between love and self-preservation, we may turn our back on love. Jesus picks up where we left off, Jesus puts upon his shoulders all our burdens and wills himself to go on in the midst of suffering for the joy of life-giving life with us – the very glory of God.

In this season of Lent, as we draw near to the cross of Jesus Christ, let us contemplate upon the love of God we see in Jesus, in his resolute will to love us, in his defiance against all that deceivingly promises life. Let us be pursued by this divine love that we know truly who we are – the beloved of God. Let us be encouraged and enflamed to choose love like Jesus and willingly pay its price for we will be where our Lord is for we follow him, the lord of love.

Song” ‘Take My Life and Let It Be’

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

Song of Sending: ‘Make Me a Channel Of Your Peace’


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.