the gathering of St. Mark’s Church
(Sunday worship under one roof)
Sunday, February 6th, 2022.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
1Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. 3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Singing: God whose almighty word
“Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.”
There is an important theme in the scriptures of passing on of the Good News of Jesus. Here Paul writing to the Corinthians speaks of how he passed on the Good News of Jesus to them. He tells a journey of the Good News of Jesus Christ reaching the Corinthians. The Good News of Jesus Christ who died for our sins, was buried, was raised for our life, was first announced through the Holy Scriptures, then through Cephas, also known as Peter, James, the 12 Apostles, the 500, to Paul to the Corinthians. There is a story and a journey of individuals and the church how the Good News appears to us. This story and a journey even has a generational story of those who die and those who live on, those who come next.
What’s your story and a journey, how the Good News of Jesus Christ was passed on to you? How will we be weaved into this intricate, deep and vast story of the Good News being passed on to others and to the next generation? I wonder whether we could imagine this passing on of the Good News like a life cycle of an ancient forest. In the thick ancient forest ancient trees fall to provide nutrients for the forest bed for the young seelings and trees to thrive and to provide a rich environment for insects and birds.
Today, as we worship the God of Jesus Christ together, may our hearts be warmed by the love of God in gratitude of the Good News, with gratefulness to those who passed on the life of the Good News to us. God by the Spirit, move our hearts and mind to desire passing on this life we have received onto those who come after us.
I invite you to a time of prayerful reflection.
“Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.”
1 Corinthians 15:11
Singing: And did those feet in former times
Welcome and Notices
Praying the Psalm
We will pray the beginning sectin of psalm 138 together. Before we do, let me give an explanation. This psalm knows the God, who is worthy of praise. A discerning heart knows the God who deserves praise. Not merely a god, but the God who is known by the ways of unfailing love and faithfulness.
This is a psalm of thanks giving that arises from an experience of this love. Even now in the midst of anger of enemies, this love holds us. This is the love that makes us face the future emboldened to follow God’s word of love and faithfulness, defiant against the world that will not.
For such is the God worthy of our praise, our world shall reflect his glory patterned after his ways of love and faithfulness. For this work of love, God will not abandon those whom God has chosen to be his partners in bringing heaven on earth.
Who is the God you worship? Is it the God of love and faithfulness? Friends, who do you know that needs to hear this Good News of God’s faithfulness and enduring love?
Search in your heart of that love that you have received. Be held by it. Let it’s light shine through you that our lives reflect this love to others. Be encouraged that though we may feel weary, God has chosen us and God will work through us.
Let us pray the psalm together giving thanks to God of love and faithfulness for this God and this God alone shall be the face the world sees in us.
Please respond with the words in colour.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
Facing your holy temple,
I will praise you.
Thank you for your unfailing love.
Thank you for your faithfulness.
Most holy is your name,
most holy is your Word.
When I called, you answered me;
you strengthened my inner being.
When they hear what you have to say,
all the kings of the earth will say, “Thank you!”
They’ll sing of what you’ve done:
“How great the glory of God!”
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Prayer for Others: Kim van Rijn
Praying the Lord’s Prayer
E to matou Matua
i te rangi
kia tapu tou ingoa
kia tae mai tou rangatiratanga
kia meatia e pai ai ki runga ki te whenua
kia rite ano ki to te rangi.
Homai ki a matou aianei
he taro ma matou mo tenei ra.
Murua o matou hara
me matou hoki e muru nei
i o te hunga e hara ana ki a matou.
Aua hoki matou e kawea kia whakawaia
engari whakaorangia matou i te kino
te rangatiratanga, te kaha me te kororia
ake ake ake.
(Offering will be brought up at the conclusion of the prayer)
Singing: Tama ngakau marie
Son of a peaceful heart, Son of God,
here we are, love us.
Take away ours sins. Undo
these evil ties which bind us.
Trample under foot whatever is evil
lest the power remain of the evil deeds.
Give us love for you who died.
This day, Jesus, you lead us.
This is the pathway to the end through
the darkness to receive great joy.
Son of a peaceful heart, Son of God,
here we are, love us.
Scripture Reading: Eric Scott
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Can I be honest with you? As I was preparing the sermon, I was sitting at the desk feeling grumpy. Actually, very grumpy. Before you judge me, be honest, you’ve had times when you are saying your prayers or having a quiet time with a face – grumpy face, when you are serving people because you know it is a good thing that you are doing, but its been a horrible week or day and you still go to serve as a volunteer but you just feel grumpy, right? Come on be honest.
Last couple of months have been the most difficult time I’ve had here at St. Mark’s. To tell you the truth, this whole COVID situation over the last 2 years, the pressure has been mounting on me. The constant pressure of dealing with the threat of the virus and its organisational and personal implications, it has been tough. But don’t me wrong, the Parish Council has been working their butts off too and, oh my gosh, I don’t know where I will be without them.
As I sat down to prepare, as I was once again working late into the night, hoping I don’t have to work on my day off, I was grumpy. And I remember, early in the week, reading through the scripture for today with high hopes, with anticipation and great expectation. Well, it was a complete contrast of emotions and state of mind at the end of the week. Grumpy.
I want to read you the beginning part to you again: Once while Jesus was standing besid the lake, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
Simon and his partners had a terrible day of fishing. And do you know the heavy burden that is for a labourer relying on the mercy of nature? At the end of their work that has had no fruit to show for it, doing the work that has to be done, exhausted and disappointed, and possibly grumpy, they hear in the background the noises of the crowd. I wonder what Simon thought? Do they no work to do? Do they have no mouths to feed? They have it easy don’t they?
Then Jesus pops himself into the boat. And, of course, it had to be Simon’s and he asks him to put the boat out a bit so that these free-time, no responsibility, free-spirited, people to hear a lecture, a speech! How’s that going to put food on the table? All this talking and not business. All this words, words, words, and no action. Real work is what they need to do. Isn’t it? Simon being the nice guy he is, being well taught to be kind, he obliges and pushes the boat out for Jesus.
Well, the next request from Jesus is just one too many isn’t it, to a man whose feeling dejected? Can’t he see the exhaustion and burden on this man’s shoulders? At this point I was starting to get really grumpy with Jesus. Come on, leave this guy alone. Just one more, just one more, it’s just a small request, that’s what adds up and becomes that last straw that broke the camel’s back!
How obliging is Simon! But I swear I can hear his dejection in his response to Jesus, can’t you? “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” There are seasons in our lives where we can really sympathise with Simon, aren’t there? Those dark, long nights of our lives where everything is hard, where all seems lost, where all of our efforts and pouring of our heart seems to make no difference, seems to have no meaning. So much so that we no longer expect anything. It’s better, it seems, not to expect anything, or even better, like that saying: “If we expect disappointment, then we can never really get disappointed.”
Because the thing is, all this dejection, all this dark, long nights of toil, all this grumpiness at the end of it, all of this really is a symptom of because we believe, we care, we hope. If we were indifferent, well, then we will feel nothing. Can you attest to that? I mean we are talking about the deepest of our desires and values. All this that we put our hands to, all this work that happens on the surface to be seen, is the stirring of the deep, the stirring of our hearts. Isn’t it?
“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus says. “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” There is a link between what we do and what we believe. There is a link between what we put our hands to and what we value. There is a link between our actions and our motivations.
We often feel we have to keep doing what we have been doing to be true to what we believe and what we value. We feel the pressure of the weight of the burden after long dark nights of keeping at it. For Simon his nets represent the work of his hands and his deepest desires. Friends, what is your net, the work of your hands, the toiling on the surface to find the joy deep in your heart?
In a counter-intuitive way, Jesus says let what is in our hands down, what we hold on to, let it go, to see and re-discover what is in the depth of your heart. Re-discover what first led you to work and give and volunteer. Re-discover what has kept you going for years and years by letting go of the very thing that you have put your hands to and feel you cannot let go.
Simon obliges. Simon obliges thinking he is doing what he has always done, fishing. Yet, Jesus is working with the depth of his soul. As the nets are let go into the deep, as the deep currents take hold of the net and inversely, as he has less and less control over the net, suddenly through the hands he feels the tug of the joy that he has toiled for. No longer it is in the deep and in the past but now it is here and now, experienced anew.
Counter-intuitive yet isn’t God’s ways counter-intuitive to our assumptions and our ways?
As I sat there grumpy, I began to thaw. I began to think about all of you for over many many years, have worked so hard, have given so much, to the work of the church. How many times I wonder you had that sense, just one more, just one more, yet its been mounting up? How the church has been, is slowly bit by bit, no longer as it is!
Friends, Jesus invites you not to do just one more, but counter-intuitive though it may be, Jesus invites you to let your nets go down deep. Let the depth of your hearts tug at the nets in your hands, hold it gently not to control it, not to toil, hold it lightly, to feel the tug of the deep to rediscover the joy to be experienced today.
Because strangely enough that’s when we may find that we want to follow Jesus on a new journey where he says to us: “from now on you will be fishing people.” Where all our experiences do not culminate in picking up the nets again but in doing what Jesus did the work of the deep, personal and relational work, the deep water work, where work of joy begins. Perhaps, looking forward to Lent and Easter, there is a pattern in the way God works, in his work of releasing those who are bound, death and resurrection, letting go and rediscovering, going deep and finding joy, all for the sake of love.
Singing: Bless the Lord O my soul
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all,
now and always. Amen.