Weekly Church Service – Passion/Palm Sunday: 28 March 2021


Sentence

At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:10-11 


Collect

God of all, 

you gave your only-begotten Son 

to take the form of a servant, 

and to be obedient even to death on a cross: 

give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus 

that, sharing in his humility, 

we may come to be with him in his glory, 

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Readings

  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Psalm 31:9-18
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Mark 14:1-15:39

next week

  • Acts 10:34-43
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
  • John 20:1-18

A Thought to Ponder

Passion/Palm Sunday Mark 14:1-15:39

The Blessing and Procession of Palms: Mark 11: 1-10

Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the most subdued version of the event in Scripture. The donkey plays a central role in the Mark’s story – Mark relates with surprising detail how the disciples found the donkey colt as Jesus told them.

It was the custom for pilgrims to enter Jerusalem on foot. Only great kings and rulers would “ride” into the city, and usually on great steeds and horses.  Jesus, the King of the New Jerusalem, chooses to ride into the city – not on a majestic stallion but on the back of a young beast of burden. By being led through the city on the back of a lowly, servile donkey, Jesus comes as a King whose rule is not about being served but centred in generous and selfless service to others; his kingdom is not built on might but on compassion. The little donkey Jesus mounts mirrors how the prophet Zechariah foretold this scene five centuries before: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey …”

In John’s shorter account, Jesus is enthusiastically welcomed as the Messiah-King by the crowds, many of whom had seen or heard about Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. John makes specific reference to Zechariah’s prophecy that the Messiah-king will enter the city seated on “a donkey’s colt.”

The Passion: Mark 14: 1 – 15: 47

Jesus’ entry into the holy city and his “cleansing” of the temple with the demand that it be restored as a “house of prayer for all people” will bring his clash with the ruling class to a head. In his account of the Passion, Mark portrays the anguish of Jesus who has been totally abandoned by friends and disciples. Mark’s Jesus is resigned to his fate. He makes no response to Judas when he betrays him or to Pilate during his interrogation (and Pilate makes no effort to save him, as the procurator does in the other three Gospels). As he does throughout his Gospel, Mark pointedly portrays the utter failure of the disciples to provide any assistance or support to Jesus or to even understand what is happening. The “last” disciple who flees naked into the night when Jesus is arrested is a powerful symbol in Mark’s Gospel of the disciples who left family and friends behind to follow Jesus and now leave everything behind to get away from him.

Reading 1: Isaiah 50: 4-7

Reading 1 is taken from Deutero-Isaiah’s “Servant songs,” the prophet’s foretelling of the “servant of God” who will come to redeem Israel. In this third song, Isaiah portrays the servant as a devoted teacher of God’s Word who is ridiculed and abused by those who are threatened by his teaching.

Reading 2: Philippians 2: 6-11

In his letter to the Christian community at Philippi (in north-eastern Greece), Paul quotes what many scholars believe is an early Christian hymn (Reading 2). As Christ totally and unselfishly “emptied himself” to accept crucifixion for our sakes, so we must “empty” ourselves for others.

There is a certain incongruity about today’s Palm Sunday liturgy. We begin with a sense of celebration: we carry palm branches and echo the Hosannas (from the Hebrew “God save [us]”) shouted by the people of Jerusalem as Jesus enters the city. But the Passion story confronts us with the cruelty, injustice and selfishness that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. We welcome the Christ of victory, the Christ of Palm Sunday – but we turn away from the Christ of suffering and of the poor, the Christ of Good Friday. These branches of palm are symbols of that incongruity that often exists between the faith we profess on our lips and the faith we profess in our lives.

In his account of the Passion, Mark portrays a Jesus who has been totally abandoned by his disciples and friends. There is no one to defend him, to support him, to speak for him. He endures such a cruel and unjust death alone. Yet, amid the darkness, a light glimmers: The prophecy of a new temple “not made by human hands” is fulfilled in the shreds of the temple curtain; a pagan centurion confesses his new-found realisation that this crucified Jesus is indeed the “Son of God”; and a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea, is emboldened to break with his fellow councillors and request of Pilate the body of Jesus. The Passion of Jesus should be a reason for hope and a moment of grace for all of us as we seek the reign of God in our own lives – however lonely and painful our search may be.

The Gospel calls us to take on what Paul calls the “attitude of Christ Jesus” (Reading 1) in his passion and death: to “empty” ourselves of our own interests, fears and needs for the sake of others; to realise how our actions affect them and how our moral and ethical decisions impact the common good; to reach out to heal the hurt and comfort the despairing around us despite our own betrayal; to carry on, with joy and in hope, despite rejection, humiliation and suffering.  

In our remembering the events of Holy Week, Jesus will turn our world and its value system upside down: true authority is found in dedicated service and generosity to others; greatness is centred in humility; the just and loving will be exalted by God in God’s time.  

Today’s liturgy confronts us with the reality of the cross of Christ: by the cross, we are reconciled to God; by the cross, our lives are transformed in the perfect love of Christ; by the cross, Jesus’ spirit of humility and compassion become a force of hope and re-creation for our desperate world.   

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Sermon

  •     Palm Passion Sunday

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Passion-Palm-Sunday-B

Weekly Church Service – Lent 5: 21 March 2021


Sentence

This is the covenant I will make with them,’ says the Lord God: ‘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.’  Jeremiah 31:33       


Collect

O God, our Redeemer,

in our weakness we have failed

to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope:

renew us by your Holy Spirit,

that we may follow your commands

and proclaim your reign of love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Readings

  • Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • Psalm 119:9-16
  • Hebrews 5:5-14
  • John 12:20-33

next week

  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Psalm 31:9-18
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Luke 22:14-23:56

A Thought to Ponder

Lent 5 John 12:20-33

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Today’s Gospel is a pivotal moment in John’s narrative. Jesus’ words about the “coming” of his “hour” mark the end of John’s “Book of Signs” and prefaces of “The Book of Glory”: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Passover is about to begin; many Jews (including some Greek Jews) have arrived in Jerusalem for the festival. Meanwhile, Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish establishment has reached the crisis stage. The events of Holy Week are now in motion. Jesus obediently accepts his fate and is prepared for the outcome.

Jesus compares his “glorification” to a grain of wheat that is buried and dies to itself in order to produce the potential life within it. The sacrifice and harvest of the grain of wheat are the fate and glory of anyone who would be Jesus’ disciple. The “voice” heard from the sky expresses the unity of Jesus’ purpose and God’s will.

To become the people God calls us to be, to live our lives in the joy of God’s love, begins by our “dying” to our doubts and fears, “dying” to our self-centred wants and needs, “dying” to our immaturity and prejudices.

The risk of being hurt is the price of love. That is the challenge of the grain of wheat: only by loving is love returned, only by reaching out and trying do we learn and grow, only by giving to others do we receive, only by dying do we rise to new life.

The Gospel of the grain of wheat is Christ’s assurance to us of the great things we can do and the powerful miracles we can work in letting go of our prejudices, fears and ambitions in order to imitate the compassion and love of the crucified Jesus, the Servant Redeemer.   

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Sermon

  •     Lent 5 B

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Lent-5-B

Weekly Church Service – Lent 4: 14 March 2021


Sentence

The Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  John 3:14-15                                                                    


Collect

Everlasting God,

in whom we live and move and have our being,

you have made us for yourself,

and our hearts are restless until they find their 

rest in you: give us purity of heart and strength

of purpose, that no selfish passion may hinder us

from knowing your will,

no weakness prevent us from doing it;

that in your light we may see light,

and in your service find perfect freedom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Numbers 21:4-9
  • Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
  • Ephesians 2:1-10
  • John 3:14-21

next week

  • Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • Psalm 119:9-16
  • Hebrews 5:5-14
  • John 12:20-33

A Thought to Ponder

Lent 4 John 3:14-21

“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him …”

Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a member of the ruling Sanhedrin. Like so many others who heard Jesus, he is fascinated by this Worker of wonders. So as not to attract undue attention, he arranges to meet Jesus at night.

In their meeting, Jesus tries to make Nicodemus understand the mission of the Messiah in a new light:

It is not Israel’s strict adherence to the ancient Law but the love of God that is the vehicle of salvation. God is motivated by a love so great that he gives the world his only Son, not to destroy but to transform the world. Redemption is initiated God; reconciliation and healing are God’s work, filled with possibilities that are as limitless as they are undeserved.

The God of Israel is not the God of condemnation and destruction but the God of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation. The Messiah comes as a “light” to enable humankind to realise the great love and mercy of God.

Contrary to the image Nicodemus and Judaism have of a powerful, triumphant Messiah who will restore Israel’s political fortunes, the real Messiah will suffer and die in order to conquer death and restore life. Jesus invokes the image of Numbers 21:4-9: As Yahweh directs, Moses lifts up the image of a serpent on a pole to heal those who suffer from a deadly plague caused by the bite of serpents. The crucified Messiah, too, will be “lifted up” to bring healing and wholeness to this hurting world.                       

Like Nicodemus, we are all seekers and Christ has assured us of his company on our journey; like Nicodemus, we find ourselves coming to Jesus in the middle of our darkest nights, seeking hope and consolation, direction and comfort — and Jesus neither rejects us nor admonishes us, but welcomes us. We discover the God that Nicodemus discovers: a God of light who transforms our despair into hope; a God of wisdom who enables us to re-create our Good Friday deaths into Easter resurrections; a God of compassion who heals our broken spirits into hearts made whole.  

Too often, we approach faith as a series of “thou shalt nots” – religion is equated with guilt, spirituality with that nagging little conscience in the depths of our souls that serves as a safety valve to stop us from becoming the wicked people we know we are capable of becoming. Jesus challenges such a limited concept of faith: God is not a cosmic tyrant that revels in seeing us suffer; God has revealed himself as the loving Father of a perfect creation that has made itself imperfect in so many ways through sin.  

Despite our rejection of the ways of God, our demeaning of the values of God, God continues to call us and seek us out. God loves his creation too much to write it off or condemn it; instead, God raises up his Son as a new light to illuminate our hearts, to make us see things as God sees them, to share God’s hope for humanity’s redemption.

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Lent 4 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Lent-4-B

Weekly Church Service – Lent 3: 7 March 2021


Sentence

God spoke these words and said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:1               


Collect

Lord our God,

by your Holy Spirit

write your commandments upon our hearts

and grant us the wisdom and power of the cross,

so that, cleansed from greed and selfishness,

we may become a living temple of your love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • Psalm 19
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
  • John 2:13-22

next week

  • Numbers 21:4-9
  • Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
  • Ephesians 2:1-10
  • John 3:14-21

A Thought to Ponder

Lent 3 John 2:13-22

Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove the money changers out of the temple area and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. “Take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

The temple is the focus of today’s Gospel. Whereas the Synoptic Gospels place Jesus’ cleansing of the temple immediately after his Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, John places the event early in his Gospel, following Jesus’ first sign at Cana. While the Synoptics recount only one climactic journey to Jerusalem, the Jesus of John’s Gospel makes several trips to the holy city.

Pilgrims to the temple were expected to make a donation for the maintenance of the edifice. Because Roman currency was considered “unclean,” Jewish visitors had to change their money into Jewish currency before making their temple gift. Moneychangers, whose tables lined the outer courts of the temple, charged exorbitant fees for their service.

Visiting worshipers who wished to have a sacrifice offered on the temple altar would sometimes have to pay 15 to 20 times the market rate for animals purchased inside the temple. Vendors could count on the cooperation of the official temple “inspectors” who, as a matter of course, would reject animals brought in from outside the temple as “unclean” or “imperfect.”

Jesus’ angry toppling of the vendors’ booths and tables is a condemnation of the injustice and exploitation of the faithful in the name of God. So empty and meaningless has their worship become that God will establish a new “temple” in the resurrected body of the Christ.

Of course, the leaders and people do not appreciate the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words, nor did the people who witnessed his miracles understand the true nature of his Messianic mission. John’s closing observations in this reading point to the fact that the full meaning of many of Jesus’ words and acts were understood only later, in the light of his resurrection.

In the temple precincts of our lives are “money changers” and connivers – fear, ambition, addictions, selfishness, prejudice – that distort the meaning of our lives and debase our relationships with God and with one another.  

Lent is a time to invite the “angry” Jesus of today’s Gospel into our lives to drive out those things that make our lives less than what God created them to be. To raise one’s voice against injustice, to stand up before the powerful on behalf of the weak, to demand accountability of those who exploit and abuse others for their own gain is to imitate the “holy” anger of Christ.

The late winter yearning for the newness, freshness, warmth and light of spring in the northern hemisphere mirrors Jesus’ angry expulsion of the merchants from the temple. Christ comes to bring newness to humankind, to bring a springtime of hope to a people who have lived too long in a winter of alienation and despair. 

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Lent 3 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Lent-3-B

Weekly Church Service – Lent 2: 28 February 2021


Sentence

If you want to become a disciple of Jesus, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him. Mark 8:34                           


Collect

God of all times and places,

in Jesus Christ, who was lifted up on the cross, 

you opened for us the path to eternal life:

grant that we, being born again of water and the

Spirit, may joyfully serve you in newness of life

and faithfully walk in your holy ways;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  

Amen.

Readings

  • Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
  • Psalm 22:24-32
  • Romans 4:13-25
  • Mark 8:31-38

next week

  • Exodus 20:1-17
  • Psalm 19
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
  • John 2:13-22

A Thought to Ponder

Lent 2 Mark 8:31-38

“Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering . . . He said these things quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. [But] he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things . . .”
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Throughout his Gospel, Mark portrays a Jesus who is constantly misunderstood by family and friends. The Gospel appointed for today in the common lectionary is a case-in-point. Jesus tells his disciples that his ministry will end in suffering and death in Jerusalem. Peter takes Jesus aside and admonishes him for speaking such a gruesome message. Jesus reacts with surprising sharpness to Peter’s rebuke. The hard reality for Peter and his companions (including us) to accept is that the cross is central to Jesus’ Messiahship – and must be a part of every follower’s acceptance of Jesus’ call to discipleship. To be part of the new life of Christ’s resurrection in the life to come requires dying to our own needs and wants in the present.  

Sometimes a cross may be a particular burden, but our crosses can also be a strength or ability we possess that we can use to bring Easter hope into the life of another. Discipleship is the challenge of transforming our crosses into vehicles of resurrection.

Jesus’ strong rebuke of Peter challenges all of us who would be Jesus’ disciples: What crosses are we willing to take up, what sacrifices are we prepared to make, for the sake of the values and beliefs we hold dear?  

While we naturally seek to avoid what is painful and stressful, it is in failure that we learn; it is suffering that we find healing; it is in the crosses we take up that we re-create our lives in the joy and hope of the resurrection.

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Sermon

  •     Lent 2 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Lent-2-B

Weekly Church Service – Lent 1: 21 February 2021


Sentence

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. Mark 1:15                               


Collect

God of the new and eternal covenant,

as the forty days of the great flood 

swept away the world’s corruption

and watered new beginnings of righteousness 

and life: grant to us, who are washed clean and

born again in the saving flood of baptism, the

wellspring of your grace,

through Jesus Christ our Redeemer,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the

Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

Amen.

Readings

  • Genesis 9:8-17
  • Psalm 25:1-10
  • 1 Peter 3:18-22
  • Mark 1:9-15

next week

  • Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
  • Psalm 22:24-32
  • Romans 4:13-25
  • Mark 8:31-38

A Thought to Ponder

Lent 1 Mark 1:9-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan.

Every liturgical year, the Lenten season begins in the wilderness. Mark’s brief account of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness takes place immediately after Jesus’ baptism. “Driven by the Spirit,” Jesus’ going to the desert is an act of obedience to the Father. This is a time for contemplation and discernment regarding the tremendous task before him.

The word Satancomes from the Hebrew word for adversary. Satan serves as the “adversary” of God, advocating those values that contradict and oppose the love and mercy of God. Mark’s portrait of Jesus in the desert is one of a Messiah coming to terms with the paradox of the human condition.

Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee proclaiming “fulfillment”: God’s long-awaited promised Messiah has come.

These 40 days of Lent are the Spirit’s call to us to a “desert experience,” to re-connect with God, to dare to wonder if our lives are all they could and should be.  

Lent calls us away from business as usual (the real motivation behind giving up one’s favourite confection or past time) in order to decide, in the depths of our hearts where God speaks to each one of us, what it means to be a person of faith, what values we want our lives to stand for, what path we want our lives to take on our journey to God and Easter resurrection.

As Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness to discern what God was calling him to do with the next part of his life, Spirit calls us to our own “wilderness experience” to confront the hard choices we must make in our lives – choices between the values of God and the far lesser things of the world that can isolate us, hurt others and diminish God’s creation. 

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Lent 1 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Lent-1-B

Weekly Church Service – Transfiguration: 14 February 2021


Sentence

It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face on Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6                                     


Collect

Almighty God,

whose Son was revealed in majesty

before he suffered death upon the cross:

give us faith to perceive his glory,

that being strengthened by his grace

we may be changed into his likeness, from 

glory to glory; through the same Jesus Christ

our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the 

Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • 2 Kings 2:1-12
  • Psalm 50:1-6
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-12
  • Mark 9:2-9

next week

  • Genesis 9:8-17
  • Psalm 25:1-10
  • 1 Peter 3:18-22
  • Mark 1:9-15

A Thought to Ponder

Transfiguration Mark 9:2-9

Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Today’s Gospel is Mark’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus. In the event witnessed by Peter, James and John on the mountain, the promise of the first covenant (Moses the great law giver and Elijah the great prophet) converges with the fulfillment of the new covenant (Jesus the Messiah).

Throughout Israel’s history, God revealed his presence to Israel in the form of a cloud (for example, the column of cloud that led the Israelites in the desert during the Exodus – Exodus 15). On the mountain of the transfiguration, God again speaks in the form of a cloud, claiming the transfigured Jesus as his own Son.

Returning down the mountain, Jesus urges the three not to tell of what they had seen, realising that their vision would confirm the popular misconception of an all-powerful, avenging Messiah. The mission of Jesus the Messiah means the cross and resurrection, concepts Peter and the others still do not grasp.

What the disciples saw in Jesus on the mountain was the divinity – the very life and love of God – that dwelled within him. That love of God lives within each one of us, as well, calling us beyond our own needs, wants and interests.  

Love that calls us beyond ourselves is “transfiguring.” In the transforming love of Christ the Messiah-Servant, we can “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.

The Jesus of the Gospel comes with a heavy price: the glorious Christ of the Transfiguration will soon become the Crucified Christ of Good Friday. Accepting the God of blessing is easy, but when that God becomes the God of suffering who asks us to give readily and humbly to others and to forgive one another without limit or condition, then we begin to insulate ourselves from the relationship God invites us to embrace. In risking the pain and demands of loving one another as Christ has loved us, the divinity we recognise in the Jesus of the Transfiguration becomes for us the eternal life of the Jesus of Easter. 

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Transfiguration B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Transfiguration-B

Weekly Church Service – Epiphany 5: 7 February 2021


Sentence

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31                                      


Collect

Saving God,

whose Son, Jesus Christ, healed the sick

and brought them wholeness of body and mind:

inspire us, his disciples,

so that we may constantly proclaim his gospel

by our words

and by the dedication and integrity of our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • Psalm 147:1-11
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
  • Mark 1:29-39

next week

  • 2 Kings 2:1-12
  • Psalm 50:1-6
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-12
  • Mark 9:2-29

A Thought to Ponder

Epiphany 5 Mark 1:29-39

Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

Jesus told them, “Let us go to the nearby villages that I preach there also. For this purpose I have come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Throughout his Gospel, Mark portrays Jesus as somewhat uncomfortable with his growing renown as a miracle worker. He clearly values time away from the crowds to be alone to pray – even though that time is cut short by the needs of those around him.

Jesus works miracles not out of any need of his own for the adulation of the masses but out of an extraordinary sense of compassion, a deep love for his brothers and sisters, especially those in crisis or pain. The miracles he works are not to solicit acclaim for himself but to awaken faith and trust in the Word of God, to restore in humankind God’s vision of a world united as brothers and sisters under his providence (“that is what I have come to do”). Jesus’ compassion for those who come to him breaks down stereotypes and defences that divide, segregate and marginalise people; his ministry is not to restore bodies to health but to restore spirits to wholeness.

The word Gospel means “good news.” It is a story that ends not in death but life; it is centred not in humiliating sorrow but in liberating joy; it does not demand blind adherence to laws and rituals but invites us to welcome the Spirit of compassion and love into our lives. The Gospel of Jesus is about the re-creation and transformation that are possible through reconciliation, justice, mercy and community.

Like Jesus’ rising before dawn and going to a deserted place, we too need that “deserted,” “out of the way” place to re-connect with God, to rediscover God’s presence in our life, to find within ourselves again a sense of gratitude for the blessings of that presence. Jesus does not perform miracles to dazzle the crowds and glory in their acclaim but to awaken his hearers’ faith and trust in the word of God, to restore all of humanity to God’s vision of one world in which all men and women love and respect one another as brothers and sisters under the Father’s loving providence. 

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Sermon

  •     Epiphany 5 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Epiphany-5-B

Weekly Church Service – Epiphany 4: 31 January 2021


Sentence

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.   Matthew 9:35


Collect

God of compassion,

you have shown us in Christ 

that your love is never ending:

enable us both to love you with all our heat

and to love one another as Christ loved us.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy 

Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Readings

  • Deut 18:15-20
  • Psalm 111
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
  • Mark 1:21-28

next week

  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • Psalm 147:1-11
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
  • Mark 1:29-39

A Thought to Ponder

Epiphany 4 Mark 1:21-28

The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes . . . “What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

For the poor Jews of Jesus’ time, the scribes were the voices of authority, the final arbiters of the Law in which God had revealed himself.  Their interpretation of the Law was considered absolute.

“Demons” are encountered several times in Mark’s Gospel.  Anything that the people of Jesus’ time could not understand or explain, such as disease, mental illness or bizarre or criminal behaviour, were considered the physical manifestations of the evil one – “demons” or “unclean spirits.”

Both demons and scribes are silenced in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ casting out the unclean spirit from the man possessed silences the voices of the demons that plague humanity.  In his compassionate outreach to the poor and sick, Jesus “silences” the scribes by redefining the community’s understanding of authority:  whereas the “authority” of the scribes’ words is based solely on their perceived status and learnedness, the authority of Jesus is born of compassion, peace and justice.  The casting out of the demons and his curing of the sick who come to him are but manifestations of the power and grace of his words.

Note that the people of the Bible viewed miracles differently than we do.  While we, in our high technology, scientific approach to the world, dismiss miracles as some kind of disruption or “overriding” of the laws of nature, the contemporaries of Jesus saw miracles as signs of God’s immediate activity in his creation.  While we ask, How could this happen? they asked. Who is responsible? Their answer was always the same: the God of all creation.  Those who witnessed Jesus’ healings, then, saw them as God directly touching their lives.

Jesus’ “authority” inspires rather than enforces, lifts up rather than controls; he sees his call to “lead” as a trust, as a responsibility to serve others by revealing the God who calls us to compassion and mercy for the sake of his kingdom of peace, instead of a God of judgment and vengeance. Authority comes not from power to enforce but from the ability to inspire.  

The “unclean spirit” that Jesus casts out of the poor man in today’s Gospel serves as a symbol of the voice of evil that sometimes speaks within us – the voice of revenge, self- centeredness, self-righteousness, greed, anger.  

We can be “possessed” by “demons” who discourage us and plague us with fear when we consider the unpopular position that we know is right and just; or the “demon” of rationalization that falsely justifies actions – or inactions – we know in our heart of hearts is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.  The compassionate Jesus of the today’s Gospel speaks to those “unclean spirits” as well, offering us the grace and courage to cast them out of our minds and hearts forever.

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Epiphany 4 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Epiphany-4-B

Weekly Church Service – Epiphany 3: 24 January 2021


Sentence

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.  Mark 1:15                                                                                  


Collect

Bountiful God,

through your Son you have called us to repent of

our sin, to believe the good news,

and to celebrate the coming of your kingdom:

teach us, like Christ’s first apostles,

to hear the call to discipleship,

and, forsaking old ways,

to proclaim the gospel of new life to a broken 

world; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Jonah 3:1-10
  • Psalm 62:5-12
  • 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
  • Mark 1:14-20

next week

  • Deut 18:15-20
  • Psalm 111
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
  • Mark 1:21-28

A Thought to Ponder

Epiphany 3 Mark 1:14-20

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

As [Jesus] passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea . . . “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

The day of the Messiah has dawned; but newness demands change: a “turning away” (the original meaning of the word repentance) from business as usual and a complete trust in the life and love of God. Simon and Andrew’s “abandoning” of their nets and James’ and John’s “abandoning” of their father in today’s Gospel illustrate the total trust and commitment Jesus demands of those who would be his disciples.

When Jesus calls us to “repent,” he’s not calling us to cease and desist; he’s not calling us out for our sins and failures. “Repentance” is a call to change, to look at our lives and our world in a new light, to become the person of hope and faith we seek to be; to repent is to look, not backward with regret, but forward with hope — not downwards at our own shortcomings, but upwards at God’s love.   

Jesus began his ministry by calling simple fishermen to be his most trusted friends. Although the Twelve were hardly scholars or men wise in the ways of the world, Jesus saw beyond their gruff simplicity to call forth from them faith, sincerity and integrity. As Mark’s Gospel unfolds each Sunday this year, the first disciples will misunderstand Jesus (if not miss the point entirely), desert him and even deny and betray him.  

To follow Christ means “abandoning our nets” of self-interest to embrace the needs of others; Jesus calls us to follow him along the difficult path of humility and selflessness. If we are going to realise his call to be “fishers of men,” we have to be willing to cast our nets into waters that are deep and turbulent, waters we do not know, waters that threaten the safety and security of our small boats.  

The Gospel is about possibilities: Christ came to show us how it is possible to love life to the fullest, if we dare to make forgiveness, reconciliation and selfless charity the centre of our lives. 

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Epiphany 3 B

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Epiphany-3-B

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