Repentance: From What? (21 Feb 2021)

21 Feb 2021 by Kathy S (Service), John McK (Sermon) in: Worship Services: 2021

A warm welcome is extended to all. Especially those who are gathering here with us
for the first time, or who have returned after an absence.

Your presence enriches us and this time of gathering together.


Acknowledgement of country

Let us begin our service by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land.

We pay our respects to elders past and present as they hold the knowledge, language and spiritual connections to this country.

We Acknowledge:

Our gratitude for this land we share today,

Our sorrow for the cost of that sharing,

Our hope that together in the spirit of Reconciliation,

we move to a place of justice and partnership,

As together we walk gently on this land.



Lighting the Christ candle

Today we celebrate that light has not been overcome by darkness and we light the Christ candle as the flame that lives again.
Today we celebrate renewed life, joy and possibilities.
We give thanks for the Spirit of Life: visible in Jesus, in us, and in people in all walks of life


Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Lent is a time to re-centre ourselves in faith and discipleship as we prepare to celebrate Easter and the love God brought to fullness in Jesus life, death and resurrection. It is a season of hope, but also one of reflection and the recognition of that which is not right in ourselves and the world we live in and what may need change and transformation.

This year we are conscious of the continuing uncertainty and effects of COVID in our community, those who are struggling in many ways. We also stand with communities across the world who not only face similar challenges to those faced by us, but also struggle with poverty, conflict and lack of resources.

Following God’s ways is not always easy -  We are called to step out in faith.
We do not know what will happen - we are called to put our trust in God.
We know that God’s love is always with us -we know that God never abandons us.


God, Present with us in all things, in all circumstances, thank you for your goodness, thank you for your compassion, thank you that you are at work for good in our world. Open the eyes of our hearts to understand your Word, unblock our ears to your Voice and open our eyes to see Jesus in others. Come, join together in this time of worship.  Come, join together in following Jesus. AMEN


SONG - Amazing Grace - my chains are gone



Prayer of Confession 

Saviour of the World,

we confess that we do harbor doubts. We have experienced great suffering in our world, witnessed the destruction caused by hate; at times we have felt utterly hopeless. We confess that it is not easy to have faith.

Saviour of the World,

renew us in our trust in you. Help us to cling to the truth we know of your love and grace. Call us to the work of restorative justice and help us to dismantle systems of oppression. Renew our faith in the goodness of one another, and by working together, help us to renew our faith in you, our Saviour, Redeemer, and Friend; for it is in your name we pray.




Declaration of Grace           

God restores. God heals. God resurrects. God renews. God is love and Love never ends.

Friends, live with hope, live with peace, live with joy, and know that God’s love endures forever.





Bible Reading - Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”


Commentary on Genesis 9 8-17 – Rev Marjory McPherson

The rainbow is seen in our modern society as a sign of inclusion and welcome, forming an arc over people regardless of sexuality or race as well as finding a place as a symbol of change or of peace across different religions and peoples. In Genesis it is a sign of the covenant between God and all the earth, every living creature of all flesh; that the waters shall not again destroy. The rainbow is set in the sky after the flood, not as a sign for humanity but as a reminder for God, in order that when God sees it God will remember not to let the flood water destroy life again. So it is not primarily a reminder for us, but rather a sign that reassures us that God remembers us, remembers that even though we will go wrong, that the waters will not again overwhelm the earth for God can see the rainbow. Perhaps then it is all the more poignant that in times of suffering and disease we paint rainbows on windows, stones and pavements as a prayer, or as a reminder to God that all living creatures are not to be lost to the world but remembered. This is the promise of God on which we rely whenever the heavens open and the waters rise. In the arc of the rainbow is a bold and colourful reminder to God of that relationship to all living things, to all flesh in all its myriad forms and it will not be flooded out of existence. There will be echoes of this in the baptism of Jesus, being enveloped by the water but rising out of it, to signs and symbols of hope and belonging, as the beloved Son is remembered by God.



 Bible reading – Mark 1 9-15

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”




Today is the first Sunday of that season in the church calendar we call Lent – the 40 days before Easter. Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness that we read about today. It is a time for reflection, repentance and preparation. For Jesus that time kicked off with his baptism by John the Baptist. Now being brought up a Baptist, Lent was never part of my faith experience. However, for the same reason, baptism was. I was baptised when I was 18. Adult or believers baptism was very big deal in my church. One reason we considered it so important was that Jesus was baptised, and therefore, so should we be.

That connection though was always a bit of a mystery. John the Baptist described his baptism as a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. That made sense for my baptism but what about Jesus? Wasn’t he sinless? Why did he need to be baptised? Have you ever thought about that? Why did Jesus get baptised?

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus answers this question by saying “it was to fulfil all righteousness”. I don’t find that answer particularly enlightening!

The answer we were usually given was that Jesus was identifying with humanity. In this theory, Jesus was a divine being, perfect and sinless, but submitted to baptism to identify with fallen humans. That approach risks minimising Jesus’ humanity – he was not a real person, he was special, not like us at all. That is not the Jesus that Mark presents and I think Mark offers us a better explanation as to why Jesus was baptised that can help us make this Lent a more fruitful time.

Mark’s gospel, most likely the first written, doesn’t record anything about Jesus’ early life - no birth stories, no genealogies, no angelic proclamations. Jesus just appears as a man from Nazareth in Galilee. In first century Palestine, Galilee, in the north, was a backwater. Compared to Judeans – from the south, Galileans were second class. Moreover, Nazareth is a town not mentioned in any other ancient literature. We know it existed because it has now been dug up and you can visit it. But it was a very unimportant place. The North American scholar Ched Myers suggested the American equivalent name of “Nowheresville”. When we first moved to Engadine 27 years ago, we heard it described as “the armpit of the Shire - maybe they could have said the “Nazareth of the Shire”? Anyway  we all know that is very unkind and totally untrue but Jesus certainly came from “Nowheresville” - a very ordinary place. He appears at the Jordan with no special history. In Mark’s story, Jesus is an ordinary person, from an ordinary place.

John had been preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus presents himself to be baptised. Was this just a show, to prove he was really human? What if Jesus’ repentance was genuine? What could he be repenting of?

To repent means to turn around, to change direction, or, as symbolised by baptism, to die to one way of doing life and rise to a new way. What could Jesus be dying to? Remember that Jesus was a normal person who had lived, presumably in Nazareth, for 30 years. He had been participating in the life of that society just as everyone else did. Furthermore, he had been participating in the structures and values of that society. Now the Roman-Jewish society of first century Palestine had a certain moral order to it. It had a certain hierarchy to it. Women, children, the disabled, the sick and foreigners were all 2nd class citizens. An elite class of religious leaders ruled in collaboration with the Romans. A class of wealthy landowners grew richer on the back of dealings with this ruling class and the debt system which saw small holders continually lose their land through debt foreclosures. Taxation fell heavily on the peasant class. The religious elite put heavy burdens on the poor through exploitative religious practices (like temple taxes for example). It was a very unequal, oppressive society that did not work well for most of its members.

It was a society in which many debts and obligations were owed. Children were literally the property of their parents; there were obligations to repay crippling and unjust financial debts with no bankruptcy arrangements, to make expensive religious sacrifices, to behave in what the elite considered socially acceptable ways but which in reality ensured the non-elites stayed in their lowly place.

But that was the society in which Jesus had lived and participated for 30 years. He probably suffered from its injustices and maybe benefited from others; he may not have liked all the outcomes but may not have even noticed some. But, as far as we know, for 30 years he remained passive,  doing his best to live within the society and perhaps accepting it for what it was .

What if that was what Jesus was repenting of? What if his baptism was signalling Jesus ending that participation in the structures and values of his society and signalling his commencement of living out a new society (perhaps one we would call the Kingdom of God)? What if Jesus’ baptism signalled the cancelling of all debts and obligations under that elitist ordering of power and community life and the commencement of a truly free life? What if sin is much more than just individual deeds or thoughts but relates to societal structures and norms so that repentance is about developing new ways of doing society, new ways of relating to others.

We start to see a picture of Jesus beginning a new creation, a new humanity, beginning with the renunciation of the old order, of the old way of being human. No wonder Mark describes his book as the gospel – the good news.

Jesus’ decision to get baptised is validated by a voice from heaven. Traditionally we read this as more proof of Jesus’ divinity. However, the term “son of God” did not signify divinity but was traditionally used for the kings of Israel – we see it in Ps 2 for example. It was to point out someone specially anointed and favoured by God for a task. What if the voice is approving Jesus’ rejection of the status quo and his setting out to launch a new program?

Afterwards, Jesus heads to the wilderness, no doubt to contemplate what this new future looks like and what he must do to bring it about. The temptations during that time, spelt out more in other gospels, show us he was tempted to take the easy road, to cheat, to use top-down power rather than create change from the bottom up.

Then Jesus goes back to Galilee. Once again he is ordinary, back to the backwater. However, as we read in the following chapters, he is now on a mission. He no longer lives within the status quo but immediately starts to challenge power, to silence demons, and demonstrate the Kingdom of God in practice.

So where does that lead us this Lent? Whether you had a baptism experience like me or not, most of us would have faced times of decision and chosen to follow Jesus in his mission. I’m sure we have also spent many times in reflection about how that is going and how we can do better. This Lent I invite you to more of that – to dwell on what Jesus might have repented of and therefore whether we have further repenting to do?

What are the values and structures of our society that we passively accept and participate in? As a whole, our society is obviously comfortable with the unemployed living below the poverty line, because that’s been going on for years. As a whole we are comfortable with a family being imprisoned indefinitely and without charge on Christmas Island; comfortable with aged care being an industry, just another profit making opportunity; with the wealthiest people in this country making a fortune out of government Covid relief funds; with climate change being either denied or ignored. As a whole we believe that the well-off deserve their comfort and the poor deserve to be poor. We have a racist past we have not dealt with. This week has shown just how far our society has to go with regard to valuing women and taking sexual harassment and assault seriously.

Of course we are not usually individually responsible for any of that, just as Jesus was not personally guilty of the injustices of his society. But just like Jesus’ society, ours has a moral order too; one that is also grossly deficient and unjust but one that is so easy for us to passively buy in to.

Are there also obligations and debts in our society that we need to repent from, to turn away from? Perhaps obligations to not discuss religion or politics, to “keep the peace” rather than challenge lies and injustice?

If Jesus repented and left behind his participation in that 1st century moral order, what would it look like for us to further repent this Lent, and embark further on that collective journey to a new society of justice and peace? What should we leave behind? What aspects of our society do we need to stop participating in? What powers do we need to challenge? Our local member of parliament has been the news a lot lately. He is powerful and he is dangerous and destructive. What should our response be?

Jesus was from Nazareth – Nowheresville. We are just a small church in Engadine. Today we have met Michael and our church is pushing bravely on in the 21st century, exploring ways of being the church today. We now face our Lent period, our 40 days in the wilderness to contemplate the future and how we may create it. We will face temptations too. Can we also step out the other side, with the courage, the compassion, the inclusivity, and the love of Jesus as we demonstrate spirituality, faith and community here in Engadine. We too just might hear that voice from heaven – “this is my church, with whom I am well pleased”.



SONG In response to John’s sermon let’s listen together to:

Beauty for Brokenness

God of the Poor (Beauty for Brokenness)

Graham Kendrick

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in your suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can't speak


Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame

Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain

Refrain - Friend of the weak

Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need

Refrain - Friend of the weak

Lighten our darkness
Breathe on this flame
Until your justice
Burns brightly again
Until the nations
Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation
And bring you their praise

Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame



Prayers for others:

God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world

We pray for situations where justice seems far away, where human rights are ignored.
Let us remind those in power that prisoners are not forgotten.

We pray that the dignity of life is respected and remember those who have lost that dignity
through age or infirmity or neglect. We pray for situations where the sex of a baby may lead to abandonment, where women are not offered the same opportunities, or are actively demeaned or mutilated. May we act to challenge injustice and seek to affirm your love for all humankind.

God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world

We pray for those who have no peace - for those who are troubled and torn apart by lack of self-esteem, for those who torment and victimise the vulnerable.
We pray for men and women affected by violence in the home and for those who live by violence.  We pray for those who are trafficked and for those who organise and profit from selling other humans. May they learn of your love and somehow come to newness of life even in the midst of despair.

God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world

We pray for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander families enduring pain and loss.

We pray for those who are grieving and traumatised and for those heartbroken and separated from family and their country. We lament together and ask that the truth be brought into the light and that it bring freedom and healing. Walk with us as we continue our journey of healing to create a future that is just and equitable.



God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world

We pray for those affected by climate change, who live in dry, parched lands and lack water or

Who live in areas affected by floods or mudslides or other weather events
those who are climate refugees and are displaced and need to  travel constantly just to survive. We pray that those who work on climate change may find solutions to halt or reverse the devastation caused. We pray that water and other vital supplies might not be used as a weapon
in countries where resources are scarce.

Loving Lord let us not stand aside and tolerate lack of basic human resources,
dehumanising practices, or the use of violence to disempower your people. God of mercy and love let us serve you in our world

Just as Jesus rejected worldly values at his baptism give us courage and strength to act and challenge hatred, and instead bring your justice and love. May we be a channel for your peace and love throughout this season of Lent and beyond. Amen


Gracious God, We especially pray our congregation here at Engadine. For Paul and Michael and their families and for each one of us here. May your Spirit give us all strength as we work to share your hope and peace with others.

We pray for our partner organisations – Common Grace, Sydney Alliance, Uniting World and Project Youth. We pray for wisdom and guidance for the leaders of these organisations as they begin a new year, seeking justice, love for neighbour and the common good.

We pray for the community groups who use our shared spaces – for the Out of School Hours Centre, Engadine Dance, Grace Studios, Waratah, ROH Choir and CaliAble. Encourage and strengthen those who organise these wonderful services for our local community, especially with the changes COVID has brought to how groups are managed. Bless all those who are part of these groups.

Today we pray for those who are facing difficulties, illness and uncertainty. We especially pray for:


Those we know who are ill


Those we know with disabilities and difficulties


Those we know missing loved ones


Those we know struggling with major life decisions


Those feeling lonely and hopeless and overwhelmed


God of Grace be with our friends, comfort and heal them, show them the right path and lead them to peace and hope. May we be light in dark places and answer to prayer.



The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours

Now and forever. Amen





Offering Prayer:

God of Creation, God of Love—

You gave the wildflower soil to stand in, sunlight to grow in, and water to rest in. You have done the same for us, but so much more. 

In gratitude for the countless gifts you have given us—for community and love, food and shelter, dreams and hope—we give back this small sign of our appreciation. 
The offering of money, food, the offering of our service, of what we have purposed in our hearts, enable us to carry through.  Silence the sensible disciple in us who would think it a waste.  Silence the voice in us who would begrudge the money and the effort. 
Nothing is too good for you, Lord. 
Nobody is too hard for you to love.  
May we individually, and our church as a whole, be known for our extravagant love




Song - Let us be known

Let us be known by our love
In every word, in every deed honour the son
Let our light shine in every eye
Let us be known by our love

For the glory of the Father
For the glory of the Son
For the glory of the Spirit
Let us be known by our love


A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half -truths, superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice,
oppression and exploitation,
so that you will work for justice, equity and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed
for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them, and change their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with the foolishness to think
that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.

As you leave this space,

May your mouth speak of God’s goodness.

May your arms hold those in need.

May your feet walk toward justice.

May your heart trust its worth.

May your soul dance in God’s grace.

And may this be your rhythm - again and again and again

In the name of Jesus - Love itself, Go with courage, go with heart, go in peace.