Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.
Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church (Sunday worship under one roof) Sunday, May 9th, 2021.
1 John 5:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the evil in our world, our faith.
Last Sunday we began with the words from the previous chapter. It reads: 7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God. And here a chapter later we hear proclaimed that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” These are not contradictory statements. Rather they are complimentary. In fact, it speaks of the mystery that has been revealed that Jesus is the human face of divine love. Because Jesus is indeed God’s love for us, we who believe in Jesus as our Christ, our Peace, our Life, our Way, is indeed born of God, and our being shall be utterly defined by love that God is as we see in Jesus our Christ.
Yes God conquers the world from darkness to love in and through Jesus life, death and resurrection, and is made complete in our life of love, life of faith, life of following Jesus. Yes love wins for Christ has conquered over death by love. As we worship the God who is inseparably love, let our way, our life, our being, conform to Christ, who shows us the way of love on earth as it is in heaven.
I invite you now to a time of prayerful reflection.
Joyful Finale by Elise Hurst
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.
Song: ‘Love Divine’
Welcome and Notices:
Mother’s Day Video:
Praying the Psalm:
We are going to pray a psalm together. Today’s psalm is Psalm 98. Before we do, I will provide some background.
It invites us to sing unto God a new song for God has done something amazing, something new. It invites all people and creation to praise and sing employing all that we can to make music. I especially like the words “Make a joyful noise!” The assumption is how can you hold back if you have seen what God has done indeed? What has God done that is new? God has won, God’s victory is revealed. God’s victory delivers the world from what is grievous and unfair to be judged with righteousness and equity.
People of God, do you see what God has done! Do you see what God is doing? God is doing a new thing! How can we hold back if we see the joy of justice and equity flowing? Where do you see God in your lives rolling away the stone stuck, where do you see God in your families, in your neighbourhood, in your community, bogged down in despair beginning to move forward in hope? Let us celebrate. Let us roar, clap, sing together. Let us be the hands, the feet, the voices of justice and equity that God is bringing to fruit.
Let us pray the psalm together rejoicing with those who see God overturning their mourning to rejoicing, their crying into singing. Please respond with the words in bold.
Let us pray the psalm together in wonder and hope!
O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things.
The Lord has made known his victory; his vindication revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn, make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy in the presence of the Lord.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
Prayer for others:
Song: ‘The Lord’s Prayer’
[The offering will be brought up during the chorus “Amen”]
Song: ‘Every Day’
Scripture Readings: John 15:9-17 and Acts 15:4-12 (New Revised Standard Version)
9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Acts 15:4-12 (New Revised Standard Version)
When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.
This is the Word of the Lord Thanks be to God
Sermon Reflection: As we commemorate our mothers of all shapes and sizes, through the good and the bad memories, I wonder whether there is something here that is akin to being born of God. You have here hats and gloves that have been handed down to you, you carry something of your mothers. More intimately, we carry something of our mothers whether physical features or character – ways of being we have learned from them. For example, I have a bent pinky. I remember someone seeing my bent pinky and asking me whether I had an accident. Then I showed them the other pinky which is a mirror image of the other. I take it after my mother. In fact, my pinky out does my mother in its bent-ness.
My parents tell me that I was a very clingy baby. All I needed and all I wanted was my mum. Poor mum. I would cry so much if I wasn’t with her. My grandparents, though they tried so much, gave up looking after me so that mum can do what she needed to do. Apparently I would cry until my face would go blue sometimes! So just a couple of weeks ago, when we were up in Auckland, I was amazed to see how well Naomi Saehee got on with her grandparents. She just adored them and so did my parents. Lisa and I were able to go on a date! Looking at how well my parents played with Saehee, I am convinced my grandparents probably just didn’t try hard enough with me, right? Hey, let me just believe that’s the case, okay? Well, over the phone, we told Lisa’s parents in Korea how well Saehee was with her grandparents. They said, Lisa was good natured like that. Ah, Saehee takes it after her mum.
So today let us be reminded that when we love, we see something of our resemblance to God. For God is love, when we love, we see God. For we believe in Jesus, whose life was love that is humanly possible, we are born of God. For God is love, we are of love. When we love we see God in us, how we take after the one who in Christ Jesus gives us new life of love.
As the church of Jesus Christ, we often affirm and proclaim that we are a family. We are a community of faith centered on Jesus Christ but because of what we believe God has done in Christ Jesus, given us new life, there is a real sense that we are more than a community, we are a whanau. We have faith parents and faith siblings. We have those gone before us, those we are a family of faith with now, and those who will come after us. So we have traditions and ways of being that resembles those who have gone before us. We have been gifted with a platform to look further and into new horizons to be who we are called to be for this time, for this place.
You know although we learn from our parents and we are grateful for that, there are new horizons that as children we must go to. This isn’t about saying their ways of old and therefore necessarily bad and useless. This doesn’t mean we cut the ties with our forerunners and burn bridges. Of course, there will be ways that we must denounce and never to allow to be our ways. Any good parent knows that her child is no mere copy of oneself. A child is her own unique person. What our parents and our faith family provide us with is the platform from which we can look further in hope and dream.
In the second reading from Acts, we see an interrelationship between those who have been and those who are looking into new horizon. We get a glimpse of the early church family seeking to respond to God and what God has done in Jesus. Paul and Barnabas have been sent out to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are outside their Jewish culture and customs. They return with amazing stories of the new things that God is doing, the new horizons that God is bringing, what God’s love is doing – breaking down the old ways that hinder them from loving, that merely reassert their identity as Jew at the cost of being followers of Jesus.
A problem arises when those who have become followers of Jesus from the sect of Pharisees. They believe that it is essential that their tradition be adhered to, if non-Jews wish to become part of them, if they wish to follow Jesus with them. What these people insist on comes from the sincerity of their heart of being faithful to those who have gone before them; that their important, beautiful and meaningful ways cannot but surely be something non-Jews must learn and live by too.
Yet Peter rises up, a man of mana among them, a totara of their whanau to remind his community, his family of faith, of who they are. They are not first and foremost a Jew but by the grace of the Lord Jesus, God has created them into a new people, people between whom there is no ‘them and us’, between whom there is no wall, no barrier, a new people open to all because of the experience of the love of Jesus that has saved them. They are first and foremost Jesus followers, a family of Christ. A Jew can be a Jew, a non-Jew can be a non-Jew because they are open to one another. What makes Jew or non-Jew to belong in this family is what Christ has done for all, opening up the barriers that separate and keep them separate rather than a particular custom or style.
Sometimes, as good as a rule or tradition has been, God does something new and the family of Christ must look beyond what has been, what is familiar, to the new horizon God is calling us to. This is especially true if our customs and traditions or style hinder us from loving one another. As followers of Christ, we cannot allow other things to trump our new identity as born of God – those who take resemblance of a God who is love. What else can we be? For we are born of God by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and God is love.
So friends, what is the new horizon of love that God is calling you to – because the love of Jesus has set you free? What is the platform that your forerunners have provided you with, to dream in hope for the sake of love? Family of Christ, family of St. Mark’s, what is the new horizon of love God is calling us to, for this time and this place because of the love of Jesus? What are St. Mark’s ways and traditions that we feel are essential, yet may be hindering us from welcoming and including others who are different to our dominant socio-economic and cultural identity? For in Christ Jesus, we are loved by God. Let us love one another and those who are different and strange to us. Let our love be shown in loving service but also in being open to all, opening our hearts and doors and opening our arms wide to extend welcome, a haere mai, in this place and wherever we may be. Amen.
Song: ‘I The Lord of Sea and Sky’
Jesus was always the guest. In the homes of Peter and Jairus, Martha and Mary, he was always the guest. At the meal tables of the wealthy where he pled the case of the poor, he was always the guest. Upsetting polite company, befriending isolated people, welcoming the stranger, he was always the guest. But here at this table, he is the host. Those who wish to serve him must first be served by him, those who wish to follow him must first be fed by him.
For this is the table where God intends us to be nourished; this is the time when Christ can make us new.
So come, you who hunger and thirst for a deeper faith, a better life, for a fairer world.
Jesus Christ who has sat at our tables now invites us to be guests at his.
What we do here, we do in imitation of what Christ did. On the night on which he was betrayed and as they were sitting at a meal, Jesus took a piece of bread and broke it saying:
“This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me.”
After they had eaten he took a cup of wine and said,
“This cup is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death. Drink this all of you to remember me.”
So now we do what Jesus did.
We take this bread and this wine, the produce of the earth and fruit of human labour.
In these, Jesus has promised to be present with us, through these, Christ can make us whole.
Creator God, all that is spectacular, all that is plain have their origin in you; all that is lovely, all those who are loving point to you as their fulfilment.
Grateful as we are for the world we know and the universe that is beyond our understanding we especially praise you who eternity cannot contain, for coming and entering time in Jesus.
For his life that informs our living
For his compassion which changes our hearts
For his clear speaking which contradicts our harmless generalities
For his disturbing presence, his innocent suffering, his fearless dying and his rising to life breathing forgiveness.
We praise you for the promise of the Holy Spirit, who even yet, even now,
Confronts us with your claims and attracts us to your goodness
And so living God send now, in your kindness, that same Spirit to settle on this bread and wine and fill them with the fullness of Jesus.
And let that Sprit rest upon us, converting us from the patterns of the world until we conform to the shape of him whose food we now share.
He whom the universe could not contain is present to us in this bread which we break
He who redeemed us and called us by name now meets us in this cup which we take
Jesus, lamb of God have mercy on us
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us
Jesus, redeemer of the world give us your peace
Go now in the joy of knowing that you have been included.
Included at the table.
Included at God’s table.
Included in our common life.
Included in the Life of God;
In the Life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Go in the joy of knowing that you have been included in the inner life of the God Who is love.
Go, find joy in telling others that they too are included!
Go, find joy in bringing all to God’s table!
Do not be afraid…
for God has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
You are included!
A Table Benediction sourced from The Work of The People
Passing of the Peace of Christ: “In Christ, You are included!”
Song of Sending: ‘We Shall Go Out With Hope Of Resurrection’
The Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with us all
now and for evermore. Amen.