RUMC 2018 Holiday Bazaar

RUMC 2018 Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, November 17th 9 am-2 pm
Luncheon at 11:30 am

Handmade Baked Goods, Fancy Cookies, Silent Auction,
Grandma’s Attic, Christmas tables, Jewelry, books, puzzles, and more!

Details will be updated on our website http://www.rockumchurch.com/holiday-bazaar/.

It is time for our annual Holiday Bazaar at Rockville United Methodist Church–142 Grove Street, Rockville, CT 06066–on Saturday, November 17th from 9 am to 2 pm.  Holiday gifts, silent auction, fancy cookies, baked goods, handmade craft items, …there’s something for everyone! Don’t forget to stop by for lunch during your busy day for a treat that never disappoints.  For more information and updates, check our website at http://www.rockumchurch.com/holiday-bazaar/.

Rockville United Methodist Church is a small but very active church located at 142 Grove Street, Rockville, CT 06066.  Our members volunteer to help the community year round.  Sunday service is at 10:00 am.  Guests are always welcome to our services.  Our Fellowship hall is available for rent; we have full kitchen facilities. http://www.rockumchurch.com/home/.

                          

Sermon: Christ’s Compassion and Our Hands

July 29, 2018 [Green]
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Christ’s Compassion and Our Hands

The Mission Week with Youth
During the last week, I was privileged to meet our youth and work with them as we reached out in downtown Hartford. It was a lot of work. I can’t count the hours and efforts that our teachers put into this deal of youth ministry. I am so proud of our youth who were willing to serve people on the streets; they are faithful disciples and our hope for the next generation.

More than a miracle
Based on our youth ministry, I had meditated on today’s passage from John’s Gospel, which is about Jesus and his disciple’s feeding ministry. Over the next few weeks, we will continue on this theme of “the Bread of Life,” and I hope we can find how we can share of God’s abundant love and lavish grace to all humanity.

Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people is one of the well-known passages in the Gospels. If we include their wives and children, the crowds would be about 20,000. Jesus did it only with five loaves and two fishes. Our preachers tend to focus on Jesus’ compassion and power to bring out a miracle to feed the hungry. Yes, I never doubt that Jesus Christ is the bread of life and whoever comes to him will have enough for their lives!

But, I’d like to point out that this story is more than a miracle. Good Christians tend to take the Bible literally, and if we consider some of Jesus’ teachings and miracles as parables or signs or symbols, they will say that we are less faithful to God. Still people want to raise a question, “how is it possible?” We know there are things in the Bible that we can’t explain with human reason or science. But we have a very nice answer for all the mysterious events in the Bible. That is, “God can do it!” And we want to shout to those who are still in doubt, “Just believe!”

By the way, if God is the same yesterday, today and forever, why do those amazing miracles written in the Bible never happen in our actual life? If it is all about Jesus’ miracles, why do we talk about discipleship; why do we respond to his command as his disciples? Why do we want to nurture our children and youth and bring them into action?

In terms of miracle, I have no problem saying that miracle is everywhere in God’s creation: God has already given us a world out of nothing, already provided sun and earth, water and wind, seeds and materials everywhere. Everything we have is divine because everything comes from God!

The Old Testament highlights that God provides something out of nothing. That is how God created the world and everything in it; God provided manna for his people when they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. But this Gospel story is different. Jesus didn’t make something out of nothing here. Rather, he took what God already provided from people’s hands. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when the disciples turned to Jesus and asked how to feed the crowds, Jesus turned back to them and said, “You give them something to eat.” That means they already had enough resources to resolve the problem there.”

Of course, feeding the large crowds would be impossible. That’s why Philip complained, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (v. 7). As Andrew points out, all they could find is “five barley loaves and two fish” belonging to a little boy in the crowd. And then just like Philip, he also complained, “[What can we do with this little lunch?]” (v. 9)

Our society tends to believe that bigger is always better. Unfortunately, the church has bought into the same philosophy. We think that the bigger church is the better and more successful church. (Honestly, I am not exceptional – talking about how I responded to my new appointment here in Rockville and how the Vermont congregations responded to it). Does Jesus command us to make a mega church? Does Jesus call the greatest to accomplish his salvation ministry?

Let us think about some of the small things that God used to do incredible things: God called a young man David to defeat the giant Goliath; Jesus chose twelve ordinary men to change the world; Jesus even taught us that we have to be servants if we want to follow him… Small things in the hands of Christ can accomplish amazing things.  This congregation accomplishes amazing things every week through the small actions of a few people.  If everyone did a small thing to help, we would make the world a better place to live.

Today’s passage is another example that Jesus used a small thing to do a great thing. He took the modest lunch from a little boy, gave thanks to God, broke the bread, and started to share with people. And what happened? There was enough to throw a big party. This would be like a backyard cookout with everyone spread out on the grass, enjoying the sunset and the cool evening breeze. What Jesus showed in this miracle is that whatever God has already given us, no matter how many or little, how big or small, whatever we have is always enough, if we decided to share with others. And when we share our resources, there is always plenty for everyone, and more left over besides.

Some of you would want to argue that they could have a party because Jesus multiplied the little food; without his power, there is nothing like a party in our lives. You still want to believe that this is nothing but a miracle (but not as a parable) and only Jesus can do this. Yet here is one thing you and I have to agree on although we have a different perspective on how to interpret the Bible. That is, Jesus worked this miracle through ordinary people.

The food was not suddenly dropped from heaven but was offered from a little boy among the crowds. Thus, the boy’s small contribution or sacrifice of what he had was the first step toward Jesus’ miracle. After Jesus blessed the bread, it was his disciples who distributed the meals. Even though the miracle did not take place through their power, they were participated in sharing the meals and feeding all the people in the wilderness. Therefore, we can say that the disciples’ hands for distribution were part of the vehicles of God’s grace.

Some scholars think it is possible that the real miracle of feeding the crowds was that the people were so inspired by the little boy who offered his own lunch, that they all shared what they had—and it was more than enough to feed everyone!

I like this interpretation even if it tends to diminish the reality of God’s unlimited power in Christ. Let us look around our world. The world already produces more than enough grain to feed every human being. But one billion people are now hungry. God has provided enough for all humanity, but the problem is, it is not being shared with all. Why couldn’t we experience all those amazing miracles written in the Bible? It was probably because we might not share or sacrifice what we have; we might not give our hands to serve those who are in need.

The hands and feet of Jesus
With a little boy’s contribution, Jesus fed more than the 5,000. What we have, what we bring to Jesus’ table (or Food Pantry in terms of our ministry) seems too little to meet all the needs we see around us. But let us realize that it is not the amount of our supplies but the power of Jesus working in our sacrificial and serving hands that can transform this world into the world where all the hungry are satisfied. Last week our Youth Ministry worked to feed the hungry and helped the homeless obtain some of life’s basic needs.  They gave of their time and energy to provide for others.

Let us remember that Jesus himself is the hope of our life. Christ’s compassion for the hungry world will be our hope. And we as his servants should be his hands and feet to share and distribute God’s abundant love, and when we participate in sharing and serving others, we can always bring forth God’s mysterious miracle to our hungry world. Amen.

Sermon: Servanthood in Diversity

July 22, 2018
Ordinary Time/Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 1:24-28; Mark 10:42-45
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Servanthood in Diversity

Cross-cultural/cross-racial ministry
One of the beauties that I can say about our communities is “diversity.” It’s not only diversity with many different ethnic groups but also diversity with wild animals. But my first impression of diversity here came from the invitation to Richard’s graduation party. There I saw little kids, young adults, early twenties and thirties, and some adults and some old folks. Regardless of age, or racial, or social differences, we all just had a wonderful time. For that, Richard in the midst of the whole crowd was so busy hosting the party all day long and making everybody connected to each other, feeling comfortable and enjoying the party all together.

The worship and ministry we are doing together is called “cross-cultural/cross-racial ministry.” I cross over the bridge to serve you and you also cross over the bridge to welcome me and work with me in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. The most important task of this ministry is how to keep or manage peace and harmony among us.

When I was in Vermont, I was only one (as an Asian man) in my white community. Truly, I am now feeling much more comfortable here in CT because I am just one of a lot. But I can tell my rural ministry brought me a wonderful lesson about diversity, not from people (because they are all white folks) but from the green mountains in Vermont. Let me share my previous experience in Vermont, based on my sermon theme, “diversity and harmony.”

Diversity in Vermont
When I said, “I came from Boston,” some of the parishioners questioned me back, “Why?” That question of why sounded like “What’s wrong?” Well, I understand why people wondered about my moving to Vermont. It’s such a radical change, isn’t it?

Since I was born in the world, I had been always a city boy who knows about a traffic jam, a nasty smell and a loud noisy from the streets. But all of a sudden, I had to learn how to deal with black flies and bugs, how to get along with a lot of trees everywhere, how to survive a winter, and how to drive down on country roads during the winter season. Of course, I had enjoyed hiking, going fishing, and kayaking on the lake.

One of my joys in that small country was to see animals. Before I moved there, the animals I was familiar with were only dogs and cats. But after I moved there, I could see lots of wild animals and domestic animals like chickens, cows, goats, horses, and so forth. Most people in my congregation had those animals just for pleasure or pastime after their retirements. But it’s still a lot of work to feed and take care of animals.

When I visited an old couple from my congregation, I saw their two goats and four chickens in their little farm. The wife introduced her goats as her babies. I was little nervous and even scared when I got close to them. Who knows if they would attack me because I was a stranger to them? But unlike my worry, they were very friendly to me. A while later, she gave me a little bowl that had corn kernels. When I put those corn on my palm, the goats came to me right away and licked my palm to eat the corn. It was my first time touching goats, and I was feeling great! “Wow, people and animals live together like a family here in Vermont!” That was my impression after I looked around their farm.

Diversity in God’s creation
What made me most marvel at in Vermont was the glory of God’s creation in the earth, sky, mountain and lake, and soon I came to humble myself by the reality that God cares for all creatures so insignificant as humankind. When I got to the top of Elmore mountain, I just spoke to myself with delight, “It is good.” (I never forget my shock to see the fresh greenness all over the land.) “Indeed, it was very good” (vv. 21, 25), this is what God proclaimed when God created all things in the beginning. God also blessed each of them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (vv. 22, 24). This passage teaches us that it is God’s will for all the creatures to thrive on earth.

Yet I believe there is some other deeper reason why God said his creation was good. I believe it’s about harmony. Although they were many and all different, all of the living creatures were not in competition or conflict but in harmony and peace. God created all creatures in huge swarms, in great diversity, and in perfect harmony with one another. Harmony in diversity is the beauty of God’s creation!

Living in peace and harmony must be the question we have to take seriously as we live in very diverse communities. How do we like to see other races? How can we communicate with other cultures? How can we live together and get along with them in our diverse world? For those questions, I got the answer from the parishioners’ farm. That is “feeding.” They fed their animals and they got along together and their farm was full of peace and harmony. In terms of our Christian ministry, it’s service that brings us fellowship and reconciliation.

Dominion as stewardship
Now I want to address human creatures. The good news is that God created humans in the image of God. God was even pleased to give us a special authority – to exercise dominion over other creatures, so we are like a God to them; “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (v. 28). Thus, it seems like humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation, right?

Yes, we have dominion over all kinds of animals in the world. That’s why we can have pets for pleasure. That’s why we can have cattle farming as a business. But when we have pets, don’t we know we are also responsible for them? At least, we have to feed them every day; we have to give them some shots and sometimes bring them to animal hospitals; we also have to walk our dogs in order to help them stay healthy. Many people even consider their pets as their own children. When we have pets or cattle, we are responsible for serving their needs.

Now I want to talk about Noah’s Ark. Noah was a special man that God entrusted creatures to him, so he had dominion over all the animals that joined his Ark. So what did he do to the animals with his dominating power? He had to feed them, remove their wastes, and make sure all the companions got along with each other in the Ark. This Savior Noah had to work hard as a servant to all of the creatures.

If we understand the definition of dominion in Genesis as stewardship or servanthood, we are to delight in other creatures, as God does, and to take responsibility for them. (think about Jesus who is the eternal Lord buts lived as a servant to all). Jesus our Lord says in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (v. 43-45).

Probably our communities and our world are like Noah’s Ark and as we have the Gospel from Jesus Christ, we are like Noah to whom God entrusts all things. How can we preach the Gospel to all the creatures; how can we restore God’s creation back to peace and harmony with each other? If we understand our Christian vocation as stewardship or service, we see others as our companions in our journey; we can welcome all human races as our brothers and sisters in God. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, but it matters to us how to let all people come together, reconcile with each other, and live and thrive together in peace and harmony. Servanthood is the way we bring God’s kingdom on earth.

The GOM’s service and fellowship
We have some very dedicated men serving our church through their works.  The Grumpy Old Men (GOM’s) meet every Wednesday morning to provide maintenance work on our church building and grounds.  Their (often unseen) actions keep our church in good condition and support our church events and services.  The men break for coffee, doughnuts, and fellowship about half-way through the morning. Friendships are formed and strengthened among these men over a cup of coffee.

What’s the secret of our coexistence with others in our diverse communities? In our GOM’s dedication and service, I saw the greatest serve the least; I saw the image of God and the image of Jesus the Shepherd who feeds his flock and cares for all creation. In your serving hands to others, I saw God’s redemption and reconciliation with all of creation. Amen.

Sermon: Focus on Nothing But the Gospel of Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5
RUMC 15 July 2018
Pastor SeokCheol Shin
Focus on nothing but the Gospel of Jesus Christ

 In time of transition
Each summer brings a number of transitions in our country. Some families celebrate their kids’ graduations; young couples have more weddings in June and July than in any other time of the year; many people are looking forward to vacation right about now; people living in the sunbelt are at the beach or in the mountains during the weekends, and a number of older families starts heading north to find cooler breezes. All of these changes, all of these transitions are happening about right now.

Our church has been in transition as you are now getting a new pastor. We have been waiting in anticipation of what comes next. Some of us may want to move forward. Others may want to stand still or move backward. So how do you like change? How do you face it when everything around you is shifting and changing?

Time of confusion
Basically, we don’t like change. In many cases, it brings us confusion as we are not familiar with new environments. I am still organizing things in my new parsonage after moving. It’s a lot of work! But I believe my cat Joey has more problems with moving; until recently, he has been hiding under my bed. Usually when I give him a can of food, we have reconciliation and get along quite well, but Joey just licked the food and crawled under my bed and never came out of it. Last week, he finally jumped on my couch and sat down in my lap as he used to. I think he is now adjusting to our new house. I said to him, “Joey, I know you have been confused with all of this sudden change, but I am the same yesterday, today, and forever and my lap is always for you. Trust in me!”

Have you ever felt hopeless like my silly cat? In this life it seems like we will never be set free from all sorts of stresses and hardships. People we love pass away. Divorce occurs. Children move away. Friends abandon us. Situations change. The pastor we love has to move out and a new pastor comes in… You may wonder, “Is this new minister the right person for me?”  Or if you are really disappointed about the pastoral transition, you may want to stay on your sofa, just like my cat.

When everything is in change and we are in confusion, let us be reminded of the good news we have in Jesus Christ, who also goes by another name, Immanuel (God-with-us). We have a God who knows every fear, every doubt, every thought we have. Remember what Jesus told his disciples before he was arrested? “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (Jn 14:1). And in First John we are told that “God is love and that there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18). God is perfect love and God is always with us. Jesus said, “I will not leave you…I will never forsake you.” (Jn. 14:8). If we trust in our Immanuel God and his promise, what shall we fear or worry?

Time of excitement
Yet, change is not always bad to us. Somehow it brings us feelings of excitement and anticipation for something good. There are things we look forward to with not only anxiety but also curiosity. People wait in anticipation for celebrations like graduation, or marriage, or having a baby, or retirement…  Waiting in anticipation is a part of life and there are often mixed emotions.

I really can tell change is God’s gift. Ever since I moved here, something happened to my heart; I feel like I am born again and my lifestyle has been changed. I came to love flowers, I wake up early in the morning, I am more passionate in my fellowship with people…. During my transition I get to set up my new office, explore the Meditation Garden, and get used to working with the church secretary.

I really appreciate my parsonage… If I just live in it for sleep, it’s really unfair to this wonderful house. Definitely, this house deserves people’s attention, so I started planting flowers in my yard. On July 4th, I drove around my surrounding towns to see what our communities look like. What a beautiful and wonderful area!!! After several hours of my tours, I figured out what I need to do if I really want to be a member of our communities. You know when you join in a certain organization, you have to pay the membership and you are responsible to keep it up. To be a member of our communities, 1) you have to plant lots of flowers around your house; 2) you have to set bird feeders near your windows; 3) you have to mow your own lawns every week in the summer. Last Monday, I mowed my lawn for about three hours. It was a lot work, but I was proud that I could ally with my neighbors.

Yet my real joy comes from you all:

  • The gift (brand new bed) from Jack and Judy.
  • The graduation party at Richard and Rebecca’s house.
  • Meeting with “Grumpy Old Men” (GOM) and chatting with them.
  • Visiting the homes of Phyllis and Ray Clark and talking about how to renew the ministry of “Seekers.”

I have only been hanging around this church for a couple of weeks here and there. But in that short amount of time I have had opportunities to meet some of you and hear your life stories. In our conversations, you have expressed to me how important this church is to you and how much you love the people here and how much you want to do for God’s sake. What a great church this is!!!

And I can tell it is – you all are already putting your faith into action:

  • Sunday School and VBS
  • Youth Ministry
  • Music Ministry – Grove Street
  • GOM
  • Seekers
  • Visitation Ministry
  • Feeding Ministry

Rockville UMC is the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Christ in this community!

Thank you for your kindness and hospitality; thank you all for your dedications to the church. I really want to let you know that I am so thankful to be here with you, and I can’t wait to work with you as we seek together for God’s vision for us. And the most important thing is that God loves you; God loves this city and Rockville UMC is God’s special vessel in this particular place and time to transform many people around us. It’s my privilege to join in your family parties and listen to your life stories and go on a lifelong journey with you!

Time of worry
While feeling blessed living in this beautiful community with these wonderful people, however, I am also feeling uneasy in my heart. What’s wrong with me? Do I need more signs? Do I need more gifts? Do I need more parties? Or do I need more flowers in my garden? No, what I receive from you is more than enough. My uneasy feeling is this, “Can I be a good gift to this church?”

There you are; and you are wondering – “Will this new pastor take time to listen to my story? Will his ministry be adequate to meet my needs? Will he keep me interested on each Sunday in a sermon? Will he make my children behave? Will he attract more young couples to our church? Will he make our church well known to our communities?” … In this early stage of our transition, you wonder what I can do for you.

And here I am wondering – “Will my talents be adequate to their needs? Will I succeed in keeping their eyes open during my sermon? Will I bring more young people that I can grow the church? Will my sermons earn their respect? … In this early stage of our transition, (just like you) I also wonder how you respond to my leadership… In this time of change, we are both putting each other on trial.

Before it gets too late, I need to confess to you how young I am in ministry, not only in my age but in every way.  I am continually working to improve my poor talents for children and youth ministry; for music ministry, for counseling, for finance and administration.… By the way, after three hours mowing my lawn, I came to doubt that I really can keep up well my membership of our communities… All of a sudden, I feel like I am taking risk in the midst of this wonderful change of my life. “Lord, I am not sure I can satisfy all those great people…” While confessing my weakness, I felt the power of God touching my heart and bringing me to this passage from Saint Paul:
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1:26-31).
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (2:1-5).

And here I am, Rockville family, just a plain and ordinary pastor.  When I came to Rockville Church, I didn’t come preaching lofty words of wisdom, or impressing you with fancy spiritual stuff, or enjoying my golden membership here in our communities. I am here only to preach nothing but Jesus Christ and his Gospel of God’s love and grace.

Nothing but Jesus Christ
Let me remind you of my question, “How do you face change and handle it when everything around you is shifting and changing?” In this early stage of our transition, you and I are in confusion, but why don’t we stop wondering or judging who I am and who you are, but decide to know nothing among us except only Jesus Christ and his love and his presence in us! From there, we can look forward in anticipation for the wisdom and power of God for the sake of God’s salvation ministry through Rockville UMC. Let’s exclaim all together: Amen!

Singers Needed!

Singers needed to join our annual Leap of Faith concert on Saturday October 27, 2018.  Rehearsals are Thursday nights and every other Tuesday beginning at 7pm on August 30, 2018.  Please email [email protected] if you are interested.

Rockville United Methodist Church is a small but very active church located at 142 Grove Street, Rockville, CT 06066.  Our members volunteer to help the community year round.  Sunday service is at 10:00 am.  Guests are always welcome to our services.  Our Fellowship hall is available for rent; we have full kitchen facilities. http://www.rockumchurch.com/home/.