【제목】너는 내 것이라
Fear not; you are mine.
I like to start today’s sermon with this question, ‘Do you think God loves you?’. Almost all of you would respond as ‘Amen’--- , and then how do you know God loves you? When do you feel God loves you?--- Probably the time when everything is in order by chance, or when you have better outcomes than you expected, when you have achieved or succeeded --- . These times, you think God loves you, without doubts. However, sometimes, things never worked out the way we wanted. Therefore, we have had doubts God really loves me. For instance, while we are encountering many difficulties: things go wrong, or we are suffering from a disease, being in the unsatisfactory status of our business, and having children in trouble---. When we experience these kinds of difficulties, we ask “The Lord! Do you really love me? In other words, under the different situations and circumstances, we would strongly believe that God loves me, but sometimes we wouldn’t. However, we should thank God because He already knows we are inconstant, and how frequently we change our minds. God never scolds us. Instead, God let us realise how much He loves us. Today’s scripture is excellent example. The Israel was in extremely difficult situation. Due to Babylon’s invasion, they lost their country, many people were captive, and Jerusalem was destroyed. People in Israel had doubts and were skeptical about whether God really was being with them or not---. At this moment, through Isaiah, this is what the Lord says: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have summoned you by name: you are mine’. The Lord knows the Israel was in utter confusion. Therefore, the Lord says this to make sure them about His love. I have seen a picture on Internet. A person holds on to God’s hand for his life in the picture. As his arms are getting tired, he can’t seize it any longer, and in desperate, he finally let go his hands. But unexpected thing happens. The person is in safe because God still grasps his hands even though he couldn't hold.
While meditating on today’s sermon, I wish we listen to what God is telling us: you are mine. God still is holding our hands even though we let go His hand---
We need to think about the relationship between the Lord and Israel.
First the Lord calls, O Jacob, but next He calls, O Israel. As you know, Jacob was renamed by Israel by God. Genesis 32:28 says, “Then the man said Your name will be no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
In fact, Jacob’s name means “con-man, sneaky, cheater.” He was actually a person who deceived God, his father, and his brother. Now he has become “Israel”. Israel means “He has striven with God.” When he came home from his uncle Laban, he saw God face to face while wrestling with an angel. That was when he was renamed Israel. The renaming shows how Jacob has changed after meeting God.
However, today’s passage says God created him when he was called Jacob and also formed him when he was renamed Israel. In other words, even before we were renamed Israel, God is still the one who has created us, even when we were Jacob.
After reflecting upon this verse, I was so thankful. Just as a father still loves his prodigal son even when he leaves the house, God loves us regardless of whether we are Jacob or Israel.
Anyway, that is how Jacob becomes Israel. Later, Jacob’s descendants are all called Israel. In other words, an individual later becomes a group. Eventually, the fact that God calls Jacob and then calls Israel means God is referring to an individual as well as a community of faith at the same time.
Isaiah 43:1 says: But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
The word “you” appears 5 times in the first verse. God is speaking to Israel in second-person personal pronoun (“you”) as opposed to in third-person pronoun (“they”). He seems to be also using the word “you” in plural. He is also saying he has “summoned you by name.”
Considering these, we can know the relationship between God and His people Israel and the relationship between God and His saints. It does not matter whether you are Jacob or Israel, and whether you are an individual or a group of people. “You” in the first verse refers to everyone. That is why God will summon you by name specifically. This is the relationship between God and the Church.
Pastor Sung-Hee Lee wrote a book called “The Future Society and the Future Church.” The book points out large churches and anonymity among the pathological phenomenon of churches in Korea.
Pastor Lee writes: “The reason many Koreans support large churches is due to the anonymity that large churches provide. Large churches allow individuals to escape from their basic responsibilities as members of the church and do not show interest towards specific individuals as small churches do.”
Occasionally there are people who ponder the question, "what is the optimal number of members for a church to stay healthy?" I think that it should be at most 1000. If it exceeds 1000, could that church continue to perform its ability as a proper church? That seems quite dubious. Through my past experience as vice-pastor in Korea, I realized such a case to be very difficult by having observed the limit of how church members can remember each other, as well as the extent of personal relationships between the pastor and the members.
In any case, God is our Creator, whether it was during the time of Jacob or the time of Israel. To God the people of Isreal were always regarded 'in 2nd person singular', and thus He is calling for a direct and personal relationship. Similarly, He is calling our name too. We are not anonymous in front of God. And likewise, the relationships between church members should not be anonymous, but rather named relationships as well.
What I hope for is everyone to have that non-anonymous, named faithful life. And so when we approach the Word of God, we take them not as something said to another person, but something meant for ourselves. Also I hope that when we worship God, each of us will be offering worship and prayers as just our sole self.
Now that we have pondered over God's and our relationship, the next thing to think about is the phrase "I have redeemed you, you are mine". As I have mentioned before, here the word "redeemed" means to have bought something with a price, and therefore the whole phrase means that God has paid the price to buy us. Then, what was the price God had to pay? It was his only son, Jesus Christ.
It is almost impossible to imagine any case where anyone would give up his son's life to buy something. Is there anything in the world that is worth the life of one's son? I can't possibly imagine. But, God has paid the enormous price for just a person like me, and this is unbelievable.
However, as I meditated upon this phrase, I realized that God has seen our values, which we haven't even conceived.
There is a poem called "Resolution" by Choi Sang Ho.
Listen up, Jung Ho and 3 other so called "punks"
Lift up your heads and shout out "teacher",
Rejection is not the blade of knife that punishes you.
Come out your forlorn faces from the corner of the class,
the corner of graduation
Didn't I say that the guy laughing
on a winter night when the ghost of wind howls
at Man Lee Dong hill
is not the only one living a shining life?
Occasionally people consider themselves as worthless creatures, when they think they are not contributing much because of their old age, lack of money, and lack of energy. Many people often think this way just like Jung Ho and his 3 other friends do.
However, we have to remember that God has paid for us, and that makes us very worthy. Therefore, people who have been redeemed by God have to live with dignity that they deserve, and they also have to treat other people with respect, because mistreating God's people is defaming God's greatness.
However, while reflecting on the words, I began to wonder. If we are people of that much value to God, so much so that he has called us precious and honoured in his sight, loves us and is willing to give up men and lives in exchange for us…
Why would he make us pass through the waters and the fire as written in verse 2? “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Last Friday we looked at a passage from Pastor Jae-Chul Lee’s [The Healing Faith]. In it, the following was written, “When our plans falter and when the unexpected hinders us, do not blame God. Instead, find the God within the situation and trust in him completely. We can only become holy when he controls us as the seed of holiness does not exist within us. Only when we are handled by God do our lives mature day by day.”
Paul in Galatians chapter 3 verse 4 asked, “Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?” Why? Because the Galatians church suffered much hardship and challenge before the church was finally established and Paul is reiterating the fact that all the pain and suffering weren’t for nothing. This was how God had handled and controlled the church, and faith requires one to believe even in challenging times.
After the Friday service, Elder Ron slipped in front of the church, hurting his face, hands and knees. He was immediately taken to the General Hospital. After a few tests, the doctor informed us that he was well and that he was able to go home. While waiting for the results, I met with Deaconess Sandy who came to the hospital after hearing the news. During our conversation, Sandy smiled and said, “The most important thing is for us to decipher God’s message in all events.”
She also added, “I had my MRI scan last week and although the results are not out yet, I believe that he will heal me. Even if he doesn’t, I am simply going back home and I’m not anxious.” Hearing this made me realize there truly is a reason for everything and that I must believe in God even when it seems near impossible to see his good intentions. I felt that God spoke through Elder Ron and Deaconess Sandy about true faith to me.
We tend to believe that God shows his love for us by making us avoid situations when we have to cross the water or the fire. However, when we look at today’s scripture, it tells us “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
It is telling us that we have to pass through the water and the fire and avoiding such situations is not true faith. The important thing is for us to see and feel the protection of God in those times, and this is why one was able to confess “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Beloved church members, we are people whom God had exchanged men and people for. God, who knows us inside out, leads us. Although there are waters and fire in this path, he does not make us avoid them. Instead, he teaches us a way to be with God, to feel his presence, in midst of the water and the fire so that we can pass through them under his protection.
I will finish today's
sermon. Today is the baptism of Christ. Verse 1, lines 10 and 11 of the Gospel
of Mark says, "As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven
being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. and a voice came
from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well
pleased." As Jesus is being baptized, the Spirit descended on him like a
dove, God's voice came from heaven as the sky tore open and says, "You are
my Son, whom I love" and that "you are mine". However, which
path did Jesus, who got baptized, take? It was not the path which there was no
water or fire. It was instead, the path which directly led to fire and water,
towards the Cross. As Jesus Christ got baptized, he accepted the way God
treated him as orderliness from God.
Philip Yancey said, "When there is no one we can lean on, even when we cannot trust ourselves, Christ is still there"… Jesus Christ provides us with strength to walk the dangerous path…
Beloved apostles, both the Lord and I say, "My beloved son, you are mine"...We all belong to Jesus Christ. We are precious existence who Jesus Christ paid for the price. So, what is the path that we have to take? It is the same path Jesus walked… I wish we all are able to walk and experience the same path Christ took. Not the path where there is no water or fire. I wish we could head towards a path where there may be fire and water, but there is also Jesus who protects us…
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