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If it had not been the Lord

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus teaches us that those who are not against us are for us. John reports to Jesus that when they saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’s name, they tried to stop him because he wasn’t following Jesus. In response, Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” ; “39예수께서 가라사대 금하지 말라 내 이름을 의탁하여 능한 일을 행하고 즉시로 나를 비방할 자가 없느니라” (Mark 9:39). One who using the name of Jesus to cast out demons is doing the work not of demons but the work of Jesus. He is not going to use Jesus’s name, then speak evil of the very name that empowered him to cast out demons. Jesus goes on to say, “40Whoever is not against us is for us.” ; “40우리를 반대하지 않는 자는 우리를 위하는 자니라” (Mark 9:40). Have you ever thought about the world this way? Who are our allies? Those who are doing the work of Jesus in Jesus’ name, and is not against Jesus, is for Jesus. Even those we are not working closely with, if they are working in God’s name, is for us, not against us. “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward”: “41누구든지 너희를 그리스도에게 속한 자라 하여 물 한 그릇을 주면 내가 진실로 너희에게 이르노니 저가 결단코 상을 잃지 않으리라”(Mark 9:41).

Then Jesus goes on to say whatever causes you to stumble (실족), it is better to gain eternal life than to hold on to what is causing you to stumble. If you yourself put a stumbling block in front of someone else, it is better for you to lose this life by being thrown into the sea than to lose eternal life. If your hand, your foot, or your eye causes you to stumble (범죄), it is better to have eternal life than to have two hands, two feet, or two eyes and lose eternal life. What are we to make of these statements? Those who cause us to stumble are not for us, but are against us. They are not doing the work of God in the name of God. They are doing the opposite of work God wants to accomplish. God wants to save us. Those who place stumbling blocks in front of us are against us. 

Who is ultimately (궁극적으로) for us (우리편)? In Psalm 124, we read that “if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, 3then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;” “2사람들이 우리를 치러 일어날 때에 여호와께서 우리 편에 계시지 아니하셨더면 3그때에 저희의 노가 우리를 대하여 맹렬하여 우리를 산채로 삼켰을 것이며”(Psalm 124:2). “1If it had not been the LORD who was on our side”; “1이스라엘은 이제 말하기를 여호와께서 우리 편에 계시지 아니하시고”… “4then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; 5then over us would have gone the raging waters.” ; “4그 때에 물이 우리를 엄몰하며 시내가 우리 영혼을 잠갔을 것이며, 5그 때에 넘치는 물이 우리 영혼을 잠갔을 것이라 할 것이로다 6우리를 저희 이에 주어 씹히지 않게 하신 여호와를 찬송할찌로다” (Psalm 124: 1, 4). After the Hurricane Ida the images of the flood (홍수) sweeping us away is all too real. And after trying to get the people of our nation and our allies out of Afghanistan, it is all too real that enemies do attack us, and they would only be too glad to swallow us up alive to our demise (소멸). And the corona virus, it is like the torrents (급류) and raging waters (성난 물) that goes over us, swallowing us up and leading to death of so many people. 

What makes sense in times like these is that we ought to work together. We must work together with scientists, and other countries, and with people of our country, to bring aid those who are suffering from natural disasters, to fight and protect against our enemies, and to fight against the virus from spreading and taking the lives of too many people already. But what makes sense to one person may not be common sense to another person.

What does the Bible teach us to do in times of crises (위기)? What are we to do? What are we to say? Who can we turn to? James teaches us: 

13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15).

13너희 중에 고난 당하는 자가 있느냐 저는 기도할 것이요 즐거워하는 자가 있느냐 저는 찬송할찌니라 14너희 중에 병든 자가 있느냐 저는 교회의 장로들을 청할 것이요 그들은 주의 이름으로 기름을 바르며 위하여 기도할찌니라 15믿음의 기도는 병든 자를 구원하리니 주께서 저를 일으키시리라 혹시 죄를 범하였을찌라도 사하심을 얻으리라.” (야고보서 5:13-15). 

We should pray when any among us is suffering. We should sing songs of praise when we are cheerful. When any of us is sick, we should have elders of the church pray for them. Our prayers will save the sick. The Lord will heal us and forgive us our sins. It is God to whom we turn to. It is God who is our savior. 

In times of trouble, in such a time as this, we can be assured that God is with us here and now, in the disasters (재해) and encounters with enemies, and pandemic. If it had not been the Lord, the psalmist writes (만약 주님이 아니였더라면). God is on our side. If God were not on our side, then we would have been swept away by the enemies, and swallowed up by natural disasters, and left to no recourse to fight against the viruses. God is on our side. God has not given up on us, “6Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.” ; “6우리를 저희 이에 주어 씹히지 않게 하신 여호와를 찬송할찌로다” (Psalm 124:6). With God on our side, Psalmist writes, “7We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.” ; “7우리 혼이 새가 사냥군의 올무에서 벗어남 같이 되었나니 올무가 끊어지므로 우리가 벗어났도다” (Psalm 124:7). We have escaped like a bird, flown away to safety, to freedom. “8Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” ; “8우리의 도움은 천지를 지으신 여호와의 이름에 있도다” (Psalm 124:8). Our help comes from the one who is powerful. Our help comes from the one who created heaven and earth. We can rest assured, we can lift up our worries to God, because God is on our side, and God is our help. 

But how does God help? God helps us by giving us faith, and strength, and courage. We learn this from the Gospel of Mark passage where Jesus teaches us, 49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”; “49사람마다 불로서 소금 치듯함을 받으리라 50소금은 좋은 것이로되 만일 소금이 그 맛을 잃으면 무엇으로 이를 짜게 하리요 너희 속에 소금을 두고 서로 화목하라 하시니라” (Mark 9:49-50). What is the significance of salt? In the Hebrew Bible, it is written: “13You shall not omit from your grain offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” ; “13네 모든 소제물에 소금을 치라 네 하나님의 언약의 소금을 네 소제에 빼지 못할찌니 네 모든 예물에 소금을 드릴찌니라” (Leviticus 2:13: 레위기 2:13). God commanded the Israelites to put salt on all of their offerings, all the sacrifices they made to God at the altar (제단). We are to have salt in us, like the salt of the covenant in the Hebrew Bible. We are also to be the salt and light of the world: “13 You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid” ; “13너희는 세상의소금이니 소금이 만일 그 맛을 잃으면 무엇으로 짜게 하리요 후에는 아무 쓸데 없어 다만 밖에 버리워 사람에게 밟힐 뿐이니라. 14너희는 세상의 빛이라 산위에 있는 동네가 숨기우지 못할 것이요” (Matthew 5:13-14). And salt must provide saltiness. When we are used as salt to give food taste or to preserve it to stay fresh, we must have our saltiness to be effective (효과). Jesus urges us, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” : “너희속에 소금을 두고 서로 화목하라 하시니라” (Mark 9:50). How do we stay salty? How do we have salt in ourselves? We can only be salt, have saltiness in ourselves, if we turn to the source that saves us, the source of our help, if we return to our creator. We stay salty by being filled with God’s spirit, God’s love, and God’s grace. As salt and light of the world, we deliver the light and the taste of God to the world. But we can only share about God’s love and grace if we know it, live it, and taste it ourselves. To do this, we come to worship together as a body of Christ, we come to pray and to read God’s word, and we do God’s work of bringing justice and mercy into the ends of the earth. 

In the book of Esther, “God” is not mentioned even once by name. But if you recall, Esther saved her people by praying and fasting, and asking her uncle Mordecai to pray and fast on her behalf also before she approached the king. Then she asked the king to save her people. And we find out that the king found favor in Esther and saved the Israelites. Did God play a role in any of Esther’s actions? Who did Esther pray to? Why was Esther fasting? Who was she asking help from? God was on Esther’s side. If it had not been the LORD, if it had not been God, who would have saved Esther and her people? If it had not been the LORD, the king may not have found favor in Esther. 

What was true in the book of Esther is also true for us now. We don’t see God mentioned in the vaccines, the masks, or keeping safe distance. Some of us might fear we are tampering (변조) with God’s divine plan by taking vaccine for coronavirus, medicine for illnesses like depression, or going to a hospital. In the middle ages, when science was just beginning to make progress (진전), the church felt threatened by it. Scientists, like Galileo, and even philosophers and theologians were put in house arrest if their views opposed the views of the church. We can see now, however, that progress (진전) in science is not outside of God’s sovereignty (주권). Science does not contradict our faith, but it can strengthen our faith by seeing how God works in ways that might seem to be mysterious to some of us. And isn’t it ironic that those who believe strongly against taking medicine for corona virus rush to the hospital for care when they get infected and feel sick? If you think taking vaccine is going against God’s divine plan, then why do you not believe going to the hospital when you are sick is also against God’s divine plan? God gave us minds to think and the ability to make progress in science, in engineering, in computer science, etc. It is by the grace of God that we can help those who get sick and to prevent people from getting sick, when possible. So, I urge us to not take science or any other area out of God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign, God can work through sciences as well as any other way. 

In closing, I want to remind us that if it had not been Jesus, who came and dwelt with us, taking on flesh, and living a life teaching us to follow God, and if it had not been Jesus who died on the cross making the costliest sacrifice, and then being resurrected (부활), proving that God conquered death, and how else would we be reconciled to God, be saved and have eternal life with God? Brothers and sisters in Christ, take strength, take courage (용기), and take peace from God who is on our side. Not only is God not against us. God is FOR us. This is the truth. This is the truth of our loving God who loved us first while we were sinners. 

Let us pray. God please help us to know that you are on our side. Give us inspiration (영감), encouragement (격려), and courage to live our lives that demonstrates (시연) who you are. Amen. 

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