Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges!

Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church on Sunday, June 13th, 2021.

2 Corinthians 5:12—17 (The Message)

Our firm decision is to work from this focused centre: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. Christ included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it!

All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.

We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

Friends of God, God has done something new in Christ Jesus, God has put right the relationships between God and us, between peoples and between all things. Let us be grounded in this truth that in Christ Jesus, in his death and in him being risen to new life, God is creating new the world. And what does this entail in our lives?

We can no longer look at the world, at each other, sideways. We can no longer measure the value of someone through what we can see. We can no longer allow the vain way of living that compels us to prove our worth by our accomplishments. Living by the truth that God is creating the world new in Christ Jesus translates to a new vision, a new perspective. We see everyone through the lens of Christ and his love for all.

Embracing newness of life in the Spirit means letting go of the strange comfort of old thought patterns and habits that are not life-giving. Living for Christ means openness to embodying divine love to those we would otherwise deem unlovable.

Today, as we worship the God of Jesus Christ together, may the Spirit give us to vision of Christ to look at the world in the way of love, to see Christ in one another?

I invite you now to a time of prayerful reflection.

Prayerful Reflection:

Reflection song: The Christ in you by Alana Levandoski


Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges!

Song: Lord Be My Vision

Welcome and Notices:

Praying the Psalm:

Today we will pray a section of Psalm 92 together. This psalm is a psalm that speaks of a dream. It speaks of a dream for the world founded on who God is. It begins with praise of this God whose love brings us joy, whose faithfulness gives us assurance. Yet this psalm sees with clear eyes the reality of our world – our world gone wrong, where evil thrives, and the wicked flourishes at the expense of those who seek justice. Though this is how the world is, this is not how the world will be. Egotists and those deceived won’t understand how this can be and will be but those who live for love and justice and those who depend on the God of love and justice will see. The world will be like the Garden, garden planted in the house of God. Such is the hope of a world renewed by God.

Friends, where have you experienced the injustice of this world? Where do you see the world gone wrong? Will you name in your heart those who are facing a world where the wicked flourish? What dream do you have for the world founded on the love of God? It may be a vision that only those who love can see, those who live for justice can feel, those who make peace have the joy of realising for the God of Jesus Christ is the one who gives us the vision of new creation, whose Spirit transforms us to be the new creation animated by love. Let hope of the dream arise in us as we pray the psalm together.

Please respond with the words in bold.

Psalm 92 (NIV) adapted for worship

It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

Egotists do not know,
the deceived do not understand.
Though the wicked spring up like grass
and evildoers flourish,
they will be no longer.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’

Prayer for Others

Song: The Lord’s Prayer                                        and offering

Offering Prayer

Song: ‘We Believe in God the Father’

Scripture Reading: Mark 4:26-34 New International Version

 Jesus also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’

Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Sermon Reflection:

I haven’t lived through life as much as half of some of you, but I have learnt that there is something to be learnt in every experience. Though I might not agree with something, though I might not understand someone, God has taught me in my faith journey that even though I might not understand something, it provides an opportunity to understand who I am.

Who am I? Such question is interesting. We like to think we know who we are but we often don’t. We need things or people that are different to us to discover who we are and to grow and transform. I often don’t understand the parables of Jesus. They are not obvious in meaning. However, in a way, of course, it would be. How can we claim to understand the Kingdom of God, heaven on earth? Perhaps Jesus could explain it more to us. Tell us the meaning. Yet Jesus insists on telling us a parable, a story, to convey the truth of God’s work on earth establishing God’s loving will for his creation. I wonder whether Jesus spoke in parables because to understand the kingdom of God, we must understand ourselves. Jesus tells us a story that cannot be minimized to a statement to reveal who we are to give us the opportunity to ask the quintessential question “Why don’t I understand?” therefore, “Who am I?”

So when you listened to the Gospel reading today, did it make sense to you and what was it that didn’t make sense? What did you understand and what didn’t you understand? Rather than reacting to it with it’s nonsense or it’s too hard, accept Jesus’ invitation to ask yourself “who am I that I don’t understand?” It’s not a question of condemnation. Rather it is a question of being true to your self. It is a question that liberates us from the lies, from the pretenses that we keep telling ourselves, that we have been deceived by. It is a question that invites us to come as you are.

When Jesus invites us to consider God’s dream that is being established on earth as it is in heaven, Jesus invites us to come as you are. However, this doesn’t mean stay as you are. When Jesus invites us to come as you are, we go to Jesus whether we feel we are ready or not, whether we feel we have it got it all together or not. Jesus invites us to come as we are because the love of God, that Jesus embodies, receives us whether we have done something wrong or whether we are too proud. In Jesus God receives us and transforms us not necessarily because God wants to, but because when we meet true love, we are transformed. When we meet true love, we want to make wrong right, we want to bring ourselves low and raise the one humbled. When we meet true love our vision changes, suddenly the world looks brighter, our perspective changes.

I want to share with you how I responded to the parable of the mustard seed. As I tell you my story, can I invite you to ask yourselves how you respond to it, therefore, who am I, who is the person that I am when I come as I am to Jesus?

In the beginning of the week, as I reflected on this passage to share with you, what struck me was the dynamic – how the smallest seed grows to be the largest of garden shrubs. Then, quickly, I began thinking, why just a shrub? Surely, if this is the reflection of the kingdom of God, the dream of God on earth, should it not be more impressive? How about a majestic oak tree? In fact, how about a Kauri that towers over all things? Surely, an oak tree, a Kauri, with big branches would provide better shelter, a grander sanctuary fitting the glory of the kingdom of God.

This was on the back of my mind, as I gave myself fully to the tragic death of Virend and Veena’s son, Avi. Last Thursday, here, we celebrated the life of Avi and gave a final farewell. Many people had come. Every seat was filled and spilled over to the foyer. I was struck by how there were people of different skin tones and colours, people of different socio-economic status, people of different abilities, those we label abled, and those we label disabled, people young and old, of diverse cultures. Fijians, Indians, Pakeha, Koreans, Hindus, Christians. As I listened to the stories people shared about Avi, it was interesting to note that most of the stories were not so much about what he could do or what he had achieved, rather stories were of Avi’s impact on their lives. For a single human being, for a young man just 34 years old, he has made an impact on so many people’s lives.

What was large and grand about this young man, wasn’t necessarily his achievements or his socio-economic status in the world or a man with a name, rather he was large in the way he had impacted people’s lives of all walks of life. He was large in the way that he offered friendship to all he encountered whoever they were. One of his friends, shared something that gave us an insight into why he lived this way. Avi was inspired by something. He had a thought he wanted to be written down. He had asked his friend to write it down for him. He said, “I know I’m not perfect, but only God knows my heart. We got to love one another.”

Avi didn’t evaluate things by how people looked on the outside, whether it is their skin colour, whether it is their physical appearances. Avi didn’t evaluate things by what people have or don’t have, whether it is money or status. Avi knew God looks at people’s hearts and so he looked at people’s hearts. Avi knew God saw in him something beautiful, so Avi saw in the people he met something beautiful. He saw the world through the eyes of God, through the eyes of Christ, through the eyes of love. And at his funeral, we have witnessed how large a person he was in Christ, in this place, he had gathered the rich and the poor, the abled and the disabled, white and black, socially accepted and unaccepted, culturally admired and disdained, all sitting side by side.

After the funeral, as I went back to prepare for Sunday, as I went back to the Gospel reading about the mustard seed, I came to the reading with a different set of eyes. Previously, I had come to the reading as a person who believed size matters. I had come to the reading as a person who believed the impressive looks matters. I had come to the reading as a person who believed that God’s tree had to be bigger than the world’s. Now, I come to the reading as a person who has been challenged that it is not the size and impressiveness of what is outside but what is inside. What is large about the kingdom of God is not about the size but the extent of its openness and welcome even to those we would otherwise deem unlovable, unacceptable, and indifferent.

When I first came to St. Mark’s, someone told me that this church is large. Can I ask you to consider what it means for our church to be large? What do we mean we are a large church?

So this is how I understand the parable of the mustard seed. The Kingdom of God is not like an oak tree, a tree impressive in its appearance and even usefulness. Though impressive in size, where will the common sparrow find the branch to perch in the shade so high up, where impressive hawks and eagles dwell? The kingdom of God is a shrub, though a largest of garden shrubs, where sparrows and wax eye can find rest, easy to approach. Even hawks when resting in a shrub doesn’t seem threatening as they have no height advantage. You and I are to be the shrub, you and I called to create space of welcome, and the only way we can do that is if you and I become a shrub from the inside, easy to approach, offering friendship to all.

Holy Communion Song: ‘Come Lord Source of Every Blessing’

Holy Communion:

Passing of the Peace of Christ: In Christ, You are included!

Song of Sending: Like a rock


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.