Sermon: The Mystery: Praying in the Silence of God

October 14, 2018
Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Mark 10:17-31
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

The Mystery: Praying in the Silence of God

Hide and Seek
Little children are good at entertaining themselves anytime and anywhere if they have their mommy and daddy and some toys around them, but do we need to buy them good toys to make them excited? Without any toys, children have a fun time with simple games like “Tag,” “Simon says,” and “Red Light, Green Light.  But perhaps no other game is as well-known to children as the game we call “Hide and Seek.” Even infants giggle with delight when playing “peek-a-boo.”

Interestingly, we can find the play of “Hide and Seek” all over in the Bible. The parable about the Good Shepherd looks after the lost sheep is a good example of “Hide and Seek.”  The hymn “Amazing Grace” speaks of the joy of being found, having once been lost.  When was the last time you played “Hide and Seek” with God?  When we play “Hide and Seek,” it is always a happy ending because God the seeker finds us the hiders. But when God plays “Hide and Seek,” it can be frustrating because God is very good at hiding, which we may call “silence” or “absence” of God. Children get frustrated and even cry when they can’t find their playmates; likewise, what would be scarier to us than God’s absence?

Job’s Response to Trial:
Last week we saw Job was thrown into a heap of ashes, the very picture of misery. All of his possessions, his children, his own health, all had been taken from him as Satan tried to demonstrate that Job would give up his faith in God if God removed grace from him. But amazingly Job still praised the Lord, saying “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” He kept his integrity in the midst of his unfair trial. Very good!  Is keeping integrity all we can learn from Job?

In today’s passage, we see Job’s patience was at an end, and he was now anxious to know why bad things happened to him. To make it worse, he was treated as a sinner by his judgmental friends. In the time of the Old Testament, such a terrible disease was thought to be a sign of God’s punishment on sinners. Yet Job was sure that he didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this kind of terrible punishment from God. Thus, he wanted to present God in their debates as a witness and let him judge what he had to end up with suffering (v. 4).

Unfortunately, as much as he sought, Job found God only absent, silent, and careless about his unjust suffering. He could see no sign of God’s appealing to his innocence before his friends. That’s why he lamented: “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him” (vv. 8-9). Job felt God was the only one to witness to his integrity, but God didn’t seem to respond to his argument. Just like little children who are frustrated when they fail to find their playmates, Job must have felt deserted in his own darkness (vv. 16-17).

Isn’t this how we feel when we are faced with such trials? “My life has been ruined because I lost my job; I feel hopeless since I am alone and getting older; my heart is broken because my child got a serious disease; but I really don’t know what to do, where to go, and how to resolve my problem… Where are you, O Lord? Please talk to me and answer the reason for my suffering.”

Once again, Job’s patience was at an end. The next reaction he showed is his desperation for God. He was complaining, arguing, shouting to heaven, “where are you Lord? … why are you silent from me? … come and answer my question…” Unfortunately, Job failed to understand why bad things happened to him. Instead he was complaining as he prayed to God in the midst of his trial!

Like Job, have we ever been desperate for seeking God’s presence? What made us cry to God? Was it a time when we were in a normal or happy life? Or was it a time when we were beaten up by the storm of life? In the chapter 1, Job was introduced as a blameless and upright man, and he was wealthy with abundance, which was considered God’s blessing in this ancient time. But there is no mention that Job was praying or seeking God like he was doing now in the midst of his suffering.

No one wants to enjoy pain and sorrow, but one thing that I really can say about it is that suffering stirs our hearts and makes us desperate for God. In other words, suffering is one of the surest ways we long for God’s hands.

A Rich Young Man’s Response to Trial:
In Mark’s Gospel today, Jesus met a rich man who was looking for God’s kingdom. Like Job, he was a morally good man, and Jesus loved him. But in Jesus’ eyes, he needed to do one more thing to inherit God’s kingdom. Jesus admonished him: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor… and then come, follow me” (v. 21). When he heard Jesus’ command, this young man was startled. What Jesus asked was too much. He couldn’t abandon all of his wealth.

And like the man in this story, we may not feel comfortable with Jesus’ strict order. In order to get into God’s kingdom, do we really have to give up all our possessions and make us completely poor? If that were so, how many of us are willing to give up everything that we have just to get into God’s kingdom?  “Who can be saved” among us? (v. 26). That was the question of the disciples and ours today as well.

To relieve our worry, I want you to read again Jesus’ command carefully. He didn’t just tell him to give up everything he had. In his final instruction, Jesus told the man to “come, follow me.”

This young man actually ran into Jesus to ask about how to inherit God’s kingdom. Interestingly, Jesus already taught his followers in the previous lesson that “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (v. 15). The rich man was a good man, but in Jesus’ eyes, he wasn’t like a little child. As you know, children could live or survive only when they rely on their parents.  When Jesus asked him to give up his wealth, perhaps he was simply requiring him to be just like a little child before the Lord, so that he might rely on God rather than his own wealth and find true and better security in the Lord.

Jesus’ command seems too radical for this rich man to take up. Yes, it was a risk; it challenged him to leave his comfort zone; it could cause him pain and sorrow. He might be even upset in thinking that “I have been faithful with God’s law although I am rich. So what’s wrong with my money?”

He misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’ trial. Following Jesus is not to give up all our happiness and joy in our world. Jesus Christ actually came to bless us more in this world. In his following message, he promises his disciples who gave up everything and followed him that they will receive a hundredfold now in this age and in the age to come, eternal life (vv. 29-30). Yes, God is our heavenly Father who loves us and wants to bless our lives. Whoever comes to the Lord, he or she will be healed and restored and blessed by God’s mercy and compassion.

If God wants to bless his children, why do bad things happen to us? I can’t fully explain why God allows God’s people to experience those pains and sorrows. But one thing I can say about suffering is that through this we can rely on God and have a true security in God. Thus, suffering to God’s people is not only a trial itself but the divine connection between God and us.

Not Why, But How…
Where is God when life hurts? Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the major questions raised in the book of Job. This is also the question that we sometimes struggle with in times of our sorrow. This book helps us to ponder on not why but how.

When suffering comes upon us like a storm, how do we want to respond? Will we be grieving and turning away from the Lord, like the rich young man in the Gospel, or will we be more desperate for seeking or praying for God’s help, like Job? Through our meditation on Job’s trial, I want to encourage you to see suffering not as a bad thing itself but as a time for us to rely on God or go deeper in close relationship with the Lord. Amen.

Sermon: The Mystery: Keeping Integrity in the Midst of Trial

October 7, 2018
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

The Mystery: Keeping Integrity in the Midst of Trial

Why Bad Things Happen:
Four weeks from this Sunday we will encounter in the Book of Job, an incredible story in which the most righteous man had to experience suffering and trial for no clear reason. When we talk about Job’s trial, the preachers usually talk about “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

In the case of Job, we are told in the opening line that “[Job] was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (v. 1). Yet all of a sudden, he lost all his children and all his possessions and then just next day he lost his health and suffered from a terrible skin disease. Why did God allow these terrible things to happen to his best servant?

Well, the story of Job’s trial was written many thousands of years ago. Can we find this kind of tragedy in our experience in our time? Yes.  Look at what happened in Indonesia after the Tsunami swept through. Thousands of innocent people were killed, and thousands more, including little children, were still missing.  Recently my colleague pastor shared his concern about a couple in his parish who had a new baby named Sophia.  A few months after her birth, Sophia got an infection that damaged 90 % of her brain cells. According to her doctor, she will be in a continual vegetable-like state if she survives. Sophia is surely innocent, yet God allowed this to happen to her and her parents.

The Possible Theological Answers:
If God is good and in charge of everything, why do bad things to happen to good people?  Why do the innocent suffer?  Why do little children get sick to death?”  Here are some theological answers I can share with you this morning.

1) The first response is “Who is really good?” The disciple Paul says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Therefore, all human beings deserve punishment and suffering. If Paul’s point is right, bad things actually don’t happen to good people because there are no good people in the world (cf. Mark 10:17-18).

Well what about Job? In this passage, God admitted that he was a blameless and unrighteous man. But does it mean he really was a perfect man before God? Maybe he was just as morally good as anyone could be. But remember, Jesus says if we covet in heart, we have stolen; if we hate someone, we have killed. By those standards we are all thieves and murderers. Job could be blameless by human standards but not by God’s standards. Thus he deserved his suffering as punishment.

Yes, there is punishment after our sin or crime. Rob a bank and go to jail.  However, this answer falls woefully short.  Can little infants (like Sophia) commit sin by their own will, thus deserving their suffering as God’s punishment? We know some people are born with disabilities in their body or mind.  To just say “we all sin and deserve punishment” isn’t a good answer to the question.

2) We may think that God allows bad things because God wants to test or discipline our faith. This might be a background story in the chapter 1 and 2. God was so proud of Job but Satan suspected his integrity; “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has and he will surely curse You to Your face” (vv. 9-11). And so God permitted Satan to destroy everything in his life to see whether he was still faithful or not in the midst of his calamity.

But we don’t like this interpretation, for it only makes God an “abuser.” What kind of parents really want to give their children those terrible tests to see how much they love them? (Think about Sophia and her parents… Does God really give infection this little infant to discipline her or to test the parents’ faithfulness in God?) We must see this story of Job as a parable or drama, not history. We don’t know when this book was composed, but it is intended for the readers to ponder about God and our faith in the midst of extreme and undeserved trials.

3) Another answer might be this: bad things happen to good people because we human being have free will. We have freedom to turn away from God (disobedience) and even to choose to do whatever we want to do. It’s our free will that probably causes suffering, not only to oneself, but to many others. For example, we choose to drink and drive and kill innocent pedestrians. We choose to fire a gun into the air so that innocent people might get injured or killed. We choose to cut trees and build toxic chemical factories that cause people to get cancer. Human free will would explain the destruction of the ecosystem or the global warming we have encountered today.

However, this still doesn’t explain natural disasters in the world, like all the earthquakes and tsunamis. Most of all, how come our righteous God allows someone’s freedom to destroy the lives of the innocent and the little children? It’s completely against the God of justice… Again the result of our free will still doesn’t give us an obvious answer.

I have shared several theological answers to this question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You can listen to many other philosophers and search other books that deal with this complicated issue.  I have to tell you that those answers are only human ideas, not God’s own answer.

This book of Job starts with the question of “why,” but does it give us an answer? Yes, it does.  Near the end of this Scripture, chapters 38-41, we find God finally intervened in Job and his three friends’ debates and answered them.  But God still didn’t give a clear explanation; instead He asked Job a series of questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … Were you there when I put the stars in the sky? … Can you tell the sea where to go? … Do you understand the ways of the creatures of the deep? Can you control them?” … In the end Job replied, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (42:3).

Basically God’s answer is like this: “I am God, I know what I am doing but you don’t know what I am doing. I am in charge but not you…” As God is the mystery, we should see that all things happening in the world are mysterious as well, and no one is able to understand how God operates his creation! That’s why Job at the end of this book confessed that “Therefore, I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). It tells us that God is working beyond our capacity of understanding.

I began by asking the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Perhaps the more adequate question is not “why” but “how.  How should we respond when bad things happen? When Job lost everything in his life – his children, his possessions, and his health, his wife told him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die” (v. 9). Remember that she, too, had lost her children. But Job’s response was “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (v. 10) Those two characters (Job and his wife) show different perspective on the mysterious trial. Which one do we belong to?

Well, one of my duties as your pastor is to encourage you not to curse God in the days of your trial.  I must help you even more in your worship of God.  I must help you understand and bless Him although you happen to struggle with the question of “why,” “why me,” or “why this?”

Keeping Integrity
What should we do when bad things happen to good people? How could we explain when the innocent end up with tragedies? What do we look for when the little children suffer from disease? Do we curse and say there is no God? Is that kind of skeptical answer helpful when we encounter any kinds of mysterious hardship, suffering, or trial?

So what does Job’s trial in this chapter 1 and 2 teach us? 1) It’s a mystery to tell why bad things happen in God’s creation. 2) Trust that God is ultimately in charge although we can’t understand how he controls. 3) As we trust in God, we should keep our integrity in the midst of trial. After all, God is the One who created this universe, and God is our Lord and Father who is in charge. We should keep our trust in God who has wisdom and power. Amen.

Sermon: Life Together-Confession, Intercession, Healing

September 30, 2018
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

Life Together – Confession, Intercession, Healing

Life Together
Over the past weeks, we have looked at the Gospel of Mark and talked about living the Christian life in terms of discipleship. We have learned that disciples should have divine things, but not human things in our mind. The divine things Jesus taught his disciples are serving others, especially, serving little children who represent the social marginals of the day. If I make the meaning of the divine things more general, it would be a life of relationship with others in our community.

The last chapter of James in the New Testament gave us today another lesson of why our social relationship is divine and how we build it. Please listen carefully as I am going to read it again:

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are 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. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (vv. 13-16).

Spiritual Practices
If I give a title to this chapter, it is “Life Together.” Life Together is a passionate call to Christian community. Jesus promised that where two or three gather together in his name, he would be there with them. Then the church must be a holy institution as we have the Prince of peace in our gatherings. But is that really always right? Actually, why don’t we think this way? Wherever two or three gather together, there would be sin, troubles and sickness. How come? It is simply because the church is a human community. We know there will be gossips, tensions and conflicts in any human communities. Some people also bring their own personal problems like their own health issues, children’s problems, or job or finance difficulties, etc.; we are concerned about their problems because we see each other as brothers and sisters in God’s love.

“How can we deal with all those issues and still go through life together as one body in Christ?” To answer that question, James wrote to the early Christians, and to us today, to deal with our sin, trouble and sickness in some kind of spiritual practices: they are “confession,” “intercession” and “healing.”

1) The first spiritual practice is confession: “Confess your sins to one another” (v. 16). We are sinners, that is the basic perspective that the Bible sees human beings. I believe sin is not only a moral or ethical term but also a social term. Intentionally or unintentionally we happen to commit sin, and there are always some people who must be hurt or damaged because of our sin. Thus, sin is by nature relational and so confession must be relational too.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus taught his followers to get rid of all sins if they want to get into God’s kingdom. He commanded them to cut off their hands and their foot and pluck out their eyes, if those cause them to stumble in sins (vv. 43-48). This dire warning of Jesus shocked all of his disciples, as we are shocked today. If we have to take Jesus’ instruction only literally, how many of us could come to church with a whole body? I also suspect that the heavenly kingdom would be filled with all disabled and maimed people. We must not take Jesus’ warning literally. I don’t think that he really teaches us that a morally perfect life is the way we can get in to God’s kingdom. We need to interpret what Jesus was trying to teach us with his dire warning.

As we carefully read it, we recognize that this hand chopping or eye plucking is actually relevant not to our physical life but to our social behaviors towards others. Jesus says, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea” (v. 42). Jesus’ warning about our sin is to focus not on our hand chopping itself but on the dangers of putting a stumbling block before others. Jesus warned us that our personal action can deeply affect others’ life. Sin is always social; therefore, our confession must be relational as well.

2) Another spiritual practice is intercession: “Pray for one another” (v. 16). Intercession is praying for others, which infers that it is also relational. If you know that someone is praying for you, you would feel like you are not alone but in God’s hands. Intercession is what Jesus Christ did between God and people: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Intercession is the way God and the world belong together.

I am thinking of a wonderful woman, a long-time member of the church that I had served in my previous appointment. At the end of my five-year ministry there, she could no longer come to the church because she was getting older and weaker. When I visited her, as I prepared to leave, she said, “I want you to know that I pray for you and pray for your new appointment in CT, every day.” I always saw her as an active member as I knew she has interceded in many people’s lives. And I would always say, “That is the very best thing that you could do.”

My new church here in Rockville has many such dedicated people.  We have people who deliver the non-perishable food collected to the food bank.  In the winter, our coat box is filled multiple times for the clothing bank.  As our members age and can no longer volunteer the way they used to, many continue to pray for others with our Prayer Chain, attend small spiritual gatherings like our Bible Prayer Meetings, and pray for those in need in our community through Seekers.

3) A third spiritual practice is healing: “so that you may be healed” (v. 16). Can healing be relational? “I was sick and I am now healed.”  “What does it have to do with others?” you may wonder…

As you know, Jesus Christ was a great physician to his contemporary people. Thousands of people followed him, looking for his physical touch on their sick bodies. He would be called a mental health therapist as he cast the evil spirits out of people. But Jesus said about his healing ministry, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:31-32). Doesn’t it sound like he was much more concerned about spiritual healing than physical healing?

Healing… that is a complicated gift of God. Yes, God has a deep compassion and will hear our voices whenever we pray to God, but I don’t want you to think that healing is magic. It doesn’t replace medicine or surgery. Although I pray for your healing, I still suggest that you need to follow your doctor’s prescription. The true meaning of healing in the biblical viewpoint is not just a physical curing but the wholeness of our life. It is relational: the relation of mind, body, and spirit; our relationship to each other; our relationship with God.

I have prayed for healing for people. And yet I have to see them still suffering and even dying. In James’s letter for this morning, we clearly hear that “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up (v. 14)…The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (v. 16). Am I not a righteous pastor? Is that why the miracle of healing didn’t happen?

That verse has at least two meanings. When Jesus touched the sick during his public ministry, he often said, “Rise up and walk.” But we should know that there is another healing Jesus mentioned in the Gospels, that is, God will raise them up and give them resurrection, which is the ultimate healing.

Healing takes many forms. Sometimes there is physical healing. I am sure that this has occurred in our life. But sometimes there is relational healing—healing within families, among friends, within a community. Sometimes there is spiritual healing – somebody got lost but God came into their lives and their life has totally changed as they are forgiven and made whole.

Life Together
“Life together” is a very divine foundation and principle on which we build our Christian community and share our relationship with one another. You don’t need confession, intercession and healing if you live alone in an island. You can do whatever you want to do because none would be hurt. But you need confession, intercession and healing because you have to live in a community where you experience sin, trouble and sickness.

What is then the divine thing we need to have in our mind in order to sustain and support our community? In terms of Mark’s Gospel, we have to keep salt in our relationships and be at peace with one another (vv. 49-50).  Salt makes our food tasty and prevents it from decay. In terms of James, we must turn our attention from ourselves to others and seek for their wholeness of life.

For that kind of intimate relationship, God calls us to confess not only to God but to the people we have sinned against. God invites us to intercede as we know some of us are in some kind of trouble and we are called to serve them. In doing so, God offers to heal us, making us whole in our relationship with one another and God. Life together as we serve and work for the sake of others’ healing, wholeness and salvation is what the Christian disciples and communities should do in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. In light of today’s lesson, “life together,” Let us listen again to today’s passage:

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are 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. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”
This is the world of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sermon: The Cost of Discipleship

September 16, 2018
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Proverbs 1:20-33; Mark 8:27-38

 The Cost of Discipleship

The Knowledge of the World and Its Power
Connecticut is a well-known state for education! A month ago, I visited the University of Connecticut during my day-off. When I walked around the campus, I really hoped to go back to school to study more. I love school because I have a strong passion for knowledge. However, I was also reminded of all the hardships that I took just to survive my expensive school life.

While spending many years in my school, I realized that pure passion for study alone is not good enough to be a good student. In the moment we put our step on the way of learning and want to have an academic achievement, we need to sacrifice many other fun things just to focus on our study. Because it requires a very tough and long discipline, we honor our teachers and scholars who have been through this hard journey of learning.

My school life also taught me that seeking knowledge is not all positive; it has negative things in it. Somehow it causes inequality in our society. I don’t want to say this, but it is true that money is one of the necessary requirements for our study. The school seems open wide to everyone, but the actual advantage of education is more given to the privileged.  The rich will get more chances of education; they can study well because they don’t need to worry about financial difficulties.  After getting their college degree, they can have good jobs and so keep their wealthy circle of life. Yet the poor have the lesser chance of education, therefore they can’t get a good job and have to remain in their poor circle of life. On the one hand, education can make us better off in our personal life, but on the other hand, it can cause social divisions in our communities.

The Knowledge of God
What does then the Bible talk about knowledge? The Proverbs teaches us to seek for knowledge because it helps us to find God’s will, guides us to the righteous way, and give us a comfortable life; “Those who listen to me (knowledge) will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster’ (v. 33). If I summarize the overall theme of the book of Proverbs, it is “seeking God’s knowledge” and “God’s knowledge” is much more precious than any other knowledge in the world. Then I wonder how much we have to pay and work hard to get this precious knowledge of God.

I know a professor in my school whose academic fame is well known all over the world. One of my academic goals was to become her doctoral student, so I could learn her great knowledge and eventually become a professor that I could also teach others in school. She also knew I was eager to be her student, and she encouraged me to apply for the doctoral program in her major. To my disappointment, she didn’t choose me but chose another candidate whose academic ability must be superior to mine. With all my heart, I wanted to follow her as her disciple or student, but I couldn’t because she didn’t accept me.

As Christians, we are eager to come to Jesus and learn from him just to be more like him. Actually, one of his main ministries was to teach people, and he was called a Master in his day. Then who deserves to be his disciples? How much rich, smart, and good we must be to be chosen to be his disciples?

Does our Lord Jesus give his candidates certain tests, and if we can’t give good answers, will he fail us although we are willing to learn from him? Thankfully, he is full of compassion and delighted to accept us the way we are. We don’t need to be rich; we don’t need to be smart; we don’t need to be perfect enough to be chosen as his disciples. Whoever comes to him, Jesus feeds them, heals them, and fills them with the Gospel of God’s salvation. He never let his followers go empty-handed.

 The Cost of Discipleship
However, is it really right that there are no requirements in Jesus’ call to discipleship? We are familiar with the term, “discipleship.” It is a special training for those who want to follow his life and ministry. In order to get a certain professional knowledge, students must be thoroughly trained with heavy assignments for such a long time. When they complete their tough training course, they can become new scholars who are able to teach other students. Likewise, we Christians must be well trained if we want to follow our Master and lead others to his way.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had a field education with his disciples, where he taught them what discipleship means. He just told them for the first time that he must suffer many things and that he must be killed and, after three days, rise again. As you know, Peter protested against his destiny as he took Jesus aside and tried to stop his way to the crucifixion. But Jesus turned all this around and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (v. 33).

According to Jesus, Peter failed his discipleship because he didn’t have in mind “divine things,” but “human things.” What are divine things and human things? Following Jesus and observing his ministry, Peter came to see him as a super hero to overthrow the Roman Empire.  Beside this King Messiah, Peter thought he could enjoy the ruling power upon the world. Peter was so sure that he deserved those political benefits because he was one of his disciples.

But Jesus only rebuked him, saying if anyone wants to follow him, they should take up their crosses, deny themselves, and follow him (v. 34) all the way to Jerusalem where he died on a cross. Simply put, Jesus’ disciples must assume their places as a servant of others. If the worldly benefits are human things that Peter had in his mind, the servant-ship is divine things that Jesus our Master requires his disciples to have in their mind.

The Discipleship to Serve Others
Peter’s own testimony in this passage demonstrates our egoism and desire. Yes, we want to enjoy our benefits but ignore our duties; we want to be honored but refuse to kneel down to honor others. We want to study hard or work hard because we want to have our lives better and richer. That is the very thing of our human nature. But as far as we are concerned about God’s salvation, we should pay attention to Jesus’ warning in verse 35: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

What Jesus says is that salvation comes not from our own obsession with the worldly success but from Jesus and his gospel that points to service, which is “divine things.” How come? As we are engaged in serving others, 1) we may see ourselves free from all kinds of idol worships and look upon Jesus as the Lord of our lives. And then, 2) we can turn our attention from ourselves to the whole of our society and bring people to reconciliation and unity with one another. Seeking knowledge can make our lives better off but can oppress and even kill others, but 3) serving others will sustain our communities in peace, justice, and love, that is the material of God’s kingdom.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we should realize that the knowledge of God is not the matter of power but the matter of service for others. And it is our discipleship that empowers us to look after the lost in our communities, break down all kinds of social injustice, and fight for God’s kingdom where all people can recover their dignity as God’s children. Amen.

Sermon: Be Persistent in Our Prayer

September 09, 2018
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

James 2:1-10; Mark 7:24-30

Be Persistent in Our Prayer

The Sweet Image of Jesus
“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so…” This is one of my favorite songs; I like to sing this song when I feel down. When I sing this song, I can think about Jesus as my Shepherd, friend and Savior. Those are images of Jesus to keep in our faith’s journey.  Jesus is sweet, gentle, kind, loving and caring for us. That’s how we want Jesus to be for us. Yet, the problem is that this sweet image of Jesus is not always what we experience in our real life.

Just look around and see what has happened. How can we sing “Jesus loves me this I know” to those who are terrified by wars or terrorist acts? What can we say about God’s love to those who are suffering and dying of diseases, hunger, or any unexpected accident? If Jesus is our Good Shepherd, why do so many people end up with tragedy in their lives? We don’t need to look around the world to figure out how difficult life is. We all have our own stories. We all know what it’s like.

Yes, Jesus loves us. This is what we believe and what we always cling to. But when we finish our worship service and go back to our lives, we happen to experience that the world is not easy and simple and that Jesus is not always there for us. Just ask the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel. She will tell you all about it.

Insulted by Jesus
When Jesus traveled to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon, which is now called Lebanon, a local woman was eager to meet him because her daughter was possessed by demons. She probably heard that Jesus was merciful to people and he had a healing power; she must have had a high expectation of him. But surprisingly, he didn’t care about her situation in the first place, as he said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (v. 27). In other words, he said, “We don’t give dogs human food.” It is very racial words!?!

Is he really the same Jesus we know and believe? As far as we know, Jesus came to the world as the Savior of all humanity and taught us that whoever believes in him deserves God’s kingdom. Then how come he humiliated this Canaanite woman in front of his own disciples, just treating her as a dog? What he spoke to her was totally against his own Gospel of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and salvation of the world.

Many biblical scholars have tried to explain it away. Some says that maybe Jesus had a long day and was now resting from his difficult works. Or he was using her desperation just to teach his disciples something. Maybe he wasn’t yet aware that he was sent to be the Messiah of the whole world, not just of Israel. Others say Jesus was only testing her to have strong faith. They offer some excuses, trying to justify his behavior, in this story. But whatever it is, we don’t like it. How can we understand that our sweet Jesus rejected and insulted this poor mother? That’s not how we want Jesus to be. But unfortunately, that is the Jesus the Canaanite woman got in today’s Gospel. And sometimes that can be the Jesus we may get in our life too.

Although we believe God is good and loves us, we know that life is neither simple nor easy at all. There are times that we are desperate for God’s help, (so we come before the Lord, express our feelings, and wait in our broken hearts) but God is still silent and nothing really happens. It’s like talking to the walls of our room or wrestling with trees in the wilderness. If you have ever felt that way, then you can understand how this woman felt when she talked with Jesus. She was shouting to him, “Lord, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession,” but he was silent and even insulting her.

Move Closer to Jesus
What do we do when we face God’s silence or ignorance? Do we give up? Do we get disappointed and angry? Do we quit the church? Do we blame God? Sometimes people come and ask me, “Why?” “Why does this bad thing happen to me?” “Why is God silent?” “Why is my prayer not answered?”  I wish I knew the answer.  After listening to you, I only have to say, “Let’s continue to pray that God will answer you.” This may sound like a cliché or a truism, but “continue to ask” was what the Canaanite woman did in her situation.

After shouting a few more words, she could have given up and gone home back. Now she had a good reason to blame Jesus. However, she didn’t give up nor step back but moved even closer, fell before him, and really begged like a dog. She even replied with some good humor, “[You may call me dog], but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (v. 28). She found a way to be more persistent when it seems everyone and everything was against her. She continued to voice out, not even knowing whether Jesus would really respond to her. But she was just there before the Lord. That’s it!

She was right! As she was persistent, Jesus finally turned around and spoke to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter” (v. 29); “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (Mt. 15:28). And that very hour her daughter was healed. She was clearly the underdog who won the prize of highest value for any mother.

So what can we learn from this story? There is nothing we can learn from Jesus in this story. We can ignore him. But I want you to look at the Canaanite woman and learn from her. She wore Jesus down, moved his heart, and let him offer his mercy on her. She was rewarded for her own persistence. Her persistence reminds us of Jesus’s words: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt. 7:7).

I don’t know why Jesus acted the way he did in today’s Gospel. Certainly this story is not about Jesus but about the Canaanite woman. And it’s about us. It is about our faith. It is about our world. God may or may not do what we expect him to do, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether we are faithful and patient enough before the Lord, and before the world. To give up is only to deepen our despair. To turn away means we will miss when God finally turns around to us. If we give up, we will never know that Jesus really loves us.

Persistent in Our Prayer
“Your faith has healed you,” This is what Jesus replies to those who come forward to seek his mercy. What kind of situation do we struggle with now? What kind of God do we confront now? Is it “Ignorance?” “Is it “Rejection?” Is it “Silence?” Is it “Failure?” Is it “Despair?” Is it “Broke up?” Is it “Get lost?” Is it “Illness?” Whatever it is, this lesson teaches us to remain strong, faithful and persistent, that we may hear God say “Your faith is great! Your request is granted!”

Yes, God is good and loves us! We never doubt it. But we also know life is not easy and simple at all. Despite our faith in God, we don’t know what to do and where to go. But, remember, God has a plan for us, knows when we are in trouble, and our Lord of mercy comes to us in God’s time. Today’s lesson teaches us that in the tough days of life, we not only say God is good but also need to let God say, “You have great faith!” as we are persistent in our prayers. That is how we draw God’s grace, overcome our crisis, and transform the world.  May God’s love and compassion be poured out to you as you are persistent in your faith and prayer. Amen.

Sermon: The Voice of My Beloved

September 02, 2018
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Mark 7:1-8, 20-23

The Voice of My Beloved

Vacation is Over
It is good to be back; I’m glad to see you all after my summer vacation during the last two weeks! I want to thank you all for helping me out and keeping me in your prayers, that my travels were safe.  I had lots of fun during my time out.

We love vacation. It gives us a chance to escape from our hectic lives and recharge our bodies and minds from our labors. During our vacation, we usually go away and see someone or something else that we haven’t seen for a while.  We want to see our families and old friends; we want to see beautiful ocean or mountains; or we want to go to see a baseball game or anything like that. I like to say that vacation is all about enjoying visual fun.

But the problem is whatever we see, we have to leave behind and return home when our vacation is over. We might be even tired from our long trip and feel empty and thirsty in our heart when we come back from vacation. That’s why we are never satisfied with our temporary vacation. Therefore, it’s better to find our satisfaction not from what is seen, but from what is unseen and always present in our lives. What is it? It is not seeing, but hearing the voice of God.

When I meditated on today’s Scripture from the Song of Solomon, I was intrigued by the invitational whisper of the words from the verse 10: “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me’” (v. 10). From this sweet voice of God, I felt I am not left alone but always in love with my eternal company. I had lots of fun during my vacation, but I really can say that it is God’s voice that has recharged my spiritual battery.

God’s Word Calling Us
Basically, this Scripture is about a love story between a man and a woman. This love song was written by Solomon who fell in love with a Shulammite woman; Solomon was a king and the woman was a peasant’s daughter working in the garden. If they only looked at each other, seeing their appearances and social status, they wouldn’t be in love. According to verse 8, their love story begins with “The voice of my beloved (v. 8).”  It was their voices that united them in love.

This passage, “The voice of my beloved,” hints to us how we can make a loving relationship with God, who is unseen and whom we don’t deserve. That is, our relationship with God starts with hearing the voice of God who invites us to his fellowship.

If we read the Old Testament carefully, we realize that the history of Israel had been formed by the voice of God. For example, God seeks out Abraham by calling his name; God also seeks out Moses by calling his name. It was God’s voice that called the people of Israel as his chosen people.

Our Christian history is also rooted in the Word of God. According to the Gospel of John in the New Testament, the incarnate Christ was originally the Word in the beginning, which was God himself. Therefore, to accept Christ is the same as to accept the Word of God. To love Jesus is the same as to love the Word of God. Thus, we realize that our intimate relationship with God is based on hearing and obeying God’s word: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Of course, God doesn’t speak to us, like we can speak to each other. But God certainly speaks to his people through numerous ways. He can speak to us through our worship service; he can speak to us through people; he can speak to us through our circumstances.

Yet, I am sure that the surest way we can hear God’s voice is to read the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the holy book containing the living Word of God. We can always meet God and hear his voice when we read the Scripture. If we love someone, we always want to stay with him or her and hear his or her voice all the time. Likewise, if we really love God, we will be eager to hear God’s voice through the Bible.

God’s Word Purifying the Heart and Empowering Our Social Life
In Mark’s Gospel, the Jews struggle to understand what makes people clean and what makes people unclean. Jesus reminds the crowds that the hand-washing rituals have nothing to do with the condition of human hearts. According to him, evils don’t enter from outside but come from within one’s own heart (v. 20).

Jesus insists that our moral attitude should spring from our pure and good heart. In this regard, we can say that our Christianity is the religion of heart, not the religion of laws or rituals. Then how can we make our hearts clean and pure enough, so that the Spirit of God dwells within us?

It is God’s word that has the power to clean our hearts. If we have God’s presence sincerely in our hearts, how can we keep evil in our hearts? Also, God’s word, which is known as the sword of the Spirit, will drive away all kinds of evil thoughts out of our mind: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to God’s word” (Ps. 119:9).

The Word of God not only purifies our individual lives but also empowers our social life. Let us listen again to the text from the Song of Solomon: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me” (v. 10). This passage is God’s promise that God will accompany us for our life’s journey if we come and rely on God’s Word.

God calls us to arise and come away because he wants to have loving fellowship with us. If we have this Spirit of fellowship within our hearts, we will then desire to reach out to share our fellowship with others as well. We will become the voice of God to others, “Arise, my friends, and come away to God’s grace.”

In Genesis, God’s voice says to Abraham: “I will bless you, that you may be a blessing to others” (Gen. 12:2). It is so impressive that God’s voice combines the act of our being blessed and the act of our blessing others. Abraham’s calling is actually what Jesus Christ has done to us. Jesus calls us to heal us and then sends us out to heal others. He calls us to forgive us and then sends us out to forgive others. God’s voice, God’s calling, God’s Word is the source of our being blessed and of our blessing others.

Hearing God’s Voice
Friends, now we all have come back from our long summer vacation. It’s time to return and meet all the challenges in our daily lives. Are we still tired and so not ready to take up our works? Or are we disappointed at being alone as we are separated from our beloveds? If so, I want to encourage you to hear God’s voice from today’s text, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.” This lovely whisper is an unnerving invitation to intimacy with our loving God. The highest King, God our Lord, calls us his darling and promises us that he will accompany us for our life’s journey. Then, what shall we fear and what shall we worry about?

Once again, God is calling us this morning, saying, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.” Therefore, let us rejoice in God’s voice, return from wherever we are, come before the Lord, and set out on our life’s journey along with our loving God. Amen.

Sermon: The Best Choice for Eternity

August 12, 2018
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

 The Best Choice for Eternity

On Our Menu
Ever since my mother came to stay with me, I have been blessed to be spoiled; I don’t need to cook at all. Nevertheless, the menu at my meal table is a lot better and plenty. There are times my mother can’t cook, and it is my turn to cook for her. However, I still don’t cook; I bring her to a restaurant.  I am not fussy or picky about food, but when I sit in a restaurant, I am careful choosing food on the menu because I don’t want to ruin the special treat for my mom.

With our hungry and thirsty souls, we come to our Rockville UM restaurant this morning. What’s on your menu today? What do you expect to get from our restaurant? By the way, I am impressed to see you all to come here this morning. To the ordinary people like us, Sunday is usually a day off; there are lots of other activities you want to enjoy or engage in on this morning, such as oversleeping, doing piled-up laundry, going on a family trip, or just rambling around the house all day long. But among lots of choices on your menu of the Sunday morning, you chose coming to the church to worship the Lord.

I am really grateful for your choice and would like to say that you chose the best on your menu. As you come to our Rockville UM restaurant, I hope today’s lesson will be filling and satisfying to all of your spiritual stomachs.

The Bread of Life
By the way, when I go to a restaurant, I want to order something special or something my mother doesn’t want to cook home. I don’t want to eat something like “chicken soup” there. You know how it smells and tastes; you know what kind of ingredients are in it. If you sit in a restaurant, I believe you want to pass it and look at other options on your menu because chicken soup is too ordinary and you want to enjoy something special for your special day.

“The Bread of Life,” which is Jesus Christ himself who comes down from heaven (v. 41), is the menu we’ve got from John’s Gospel chapter 6. This menu also kindly explains the ingredients in it: “This bread is made by God’s grace and love through Jesus Christ who died on a cross to forgive all of our sins.” And it also explains what happens when we eat it: “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever…” (v. 51).

Is there anyone among us who hasn’t heard about the Bread of Life? Is there anyone among us who doesn’t know why Jesus came down from heaven? Is there anyone among us who doesn’t believe in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life? The Bread of Life is like a chicken soup, which we all know about, for it is one of the famous parables in the Gospels. So are you disappointed at our menu today? Do you want to pass today’s lesson? Do you regret your decision to come to our worship service this morning?

If so, I want you to think about this; life without death or new life after death is something we always desire in our hearts, isn’t it? Whether we like our present life or not, our life never stops but goes on and on. Regardless of how great our lives may be, someday we all come to an end of our earthly life. Due to the reality of our limited life, it’s only our instinct that we want to look for something divine to sustain our life on blessings and even hold it forever.

What kind of food can satisfy our spiritual thirst? Who will forgive our sins and give us new life? Where can we find the gift of eternal life? From time to time, I go to a restaurant to enjoy special meals there. But whether I like my mother’s food or not, I have to confess that it is my mother’s daily food that has raised me and kept me healthy and strong. Likewise, let us not feel bored with the Bread of Life, the Gospel we believe that Jesus is our Savior who came to forgive us and offer us a new life here on earth and eternal life in God’s kingdom.

God’s Invitation and Our Act
But I still wonder how we can get this special meal of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Are we here in God’s restaurant because we are so good, smart, faithful and righteous enough to deserve God’s grace? No? If you are worried, we might not be worthy of such a blessing, remember our parents still fed us even if we are not always good to them. For this question, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him or her” (v. 44). In other words, it is God our Father who has invited us to Jesus that we are blessed to receive the Bread of Life from him. In terms of our belief, we don’t earn God’s salvation by our works but it’s all about God’s free gift! Is that all? Is there nothing we need to do to get God’s gift?

One of my sabbatical resources I enjoy is going fishing during my day off. I always bring my bucket, hoping to put many fish in it. After about 2 hours sitting at the water’s edge, however, I just had to come home with my empty bucket. The problem is that fish never hopped from water into my bucket… Here is one thing fish have to do to after I toss my fishing line, that is, fish have to come and bite my bait, so that I can draw it into my bucket.

Likewise, God’s grace is everywhere in our lives but we have to come and bite it if we want to experience God’s grace. In John’s Gospel, Jesus promises to give us the Bread of Life, but he says beforehand “Come.” … “Invite and give” is what God does for us, but “come and receive” is what we should do by our own faith. We need to dedicate our lives to hearing God’s words and practicing God’s commandment of living a good life as Christ’s servants.

But as the spiritual blinded, we are not always drawn to Jesus. Rather we sometimes choose, by our own will, to turn away from the way of God. Why? It is because we are given many options and God’s calling is just one of them.  The Bread of Life looks like ordinary chicken soup that doesn’t deserve our attention: “Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, I have come down from heaven?’” (vv. 41-42).

If you remember, I told you last week about “The Lord’s Prayer” that points to our human reality that we not only need spiritual bread but physical bread – “Give us this day our daily bread.” In order to sustain our daily life, we have to spend time seeking our daily needs and supplies. But how much time do we spend seeking out spiritual meals? How much time and energy do we spend for our prayer, meditation on the Bible, and coming to worship and praising the Lord?

God is holy, faithful, righteous, compassionate, and merciful enough to feed his children. If we want to get closer to God, we must also strive hard to be like Christ our Lord as we discipline our spiritual life. The Epistle lesson from Ephesians give us the list of how we should live and behave as God’s children (v. 25-32). We here at RUMC live that list, volunteering in our community at events such as “National Night Out” last Tuesday, where we gratefully worked together in God’s grace.

 The Best Activity in Our Lives
What do you think is your best activity you have done during the last week? Based on today’s lesson, we might believe coming to God and listening to the Lord Sunday after Sunday is the best we have done among many others.  And why not?  Here in God’s house, we receive the Bread of Life which alone gives us eternal life. Here in God’s house, we are challenged to live a life of goodness. What would be better than this spiritual meal on our menu of life this week and the next?

Grace to you, who chose by your own faith to come forward to receive the Bread of Life from the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is delighted to offer us the bread of heaven. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Sermon: The Bread of Life Beyond All Things

August 05, 2018
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:24-35

The Bread of Life Beyond All Things

The Daily Bread
Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray together; we call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” When I meditate on this prayer and visualize each line of it, I find that this prayer is so rich and clear for our faith’s journey in our earthly life.

Most of the petitions of the prayer are very spiritual sounding. They have to do with our trust in God. Even that political-sounding petition about “Thy kingdom come” is a prayer for our faith. God’s kingdom will come someday on its own for the sake of God’s final victory even though we don’t seriously seek it in our everyday life. Yet when we meditate on it, we may think about God’s kingdom and humbly submit ourselves to God’s reign.

But in this spiritual prayer, there is a mention about our physical reality: “Give us this day our daily bread.” What kind of bread are we supposed to ask in the Lord’s Prayer? Well, it can be simple bread we can bake at our home or buy at the bakery shop, or it can be anything we eat such as chicken soup, salad, rice, spaghetti, or stake, etc.

If I want to expand the concept of bread, it includes all the necessities that we need for our daily life. If I need to name the kinds of “bread,” it should be things such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, job (materials); garden, nature, neighbors, school, hospital, government (circumstances); upright spouse, good children, companionship (relationship); health, peace, vacation, safety (well-being), and the like. These kinds of bread would be far larger than we can imagine. The bread we eat or we look for is something to sustain our lives. Jesus realizes we need all those things and allows us to seek out them in our prayer. Based on Jesus’ teaching, I encourage you to go on your vacation and take rest there! What you are doing on the beach is to pray for the bread to refresh your body and mind!

But I still wonder how this physical bread has to do with God’s kingdom or God’s reign. Is it also something spiritual to deepen or strengthen our faith in God? It depends on which part you want to focus on when you seek out your daily bread? Are you willing to focus on bread itself or focus on who gives the bread?

The Bread of Life
Following last Sunday, today’s lectionary scripture from John 6 leads us to meditate on the theme, “the Bread of Life.” In today’s gospel lesson, we see Jesus dealing with the crowds who had continued to follow him; they followed Jesus because they saw his miraculous power to feed the multitudes in the desert. They challenged Jesus to show them more signs (v. 30), which means to give them more material blessings and satisfy their stomachs or desire. But when Jesus refused to show a miracle but only talked about something spiritual, they all turned away and never came back to him (v. 66).

What’s the problem with the crowds? They had seen and enjoyed all the spectacular miracles that Jesus had done for them, but they failed to see beyond those things. In other words, they were excited with all the bread Jesus provided for them but didn’t appreciate him as the source of life. I don’t want to criticize anyone in this hungry world who is looking for bread to eat. Nor do I want anyone in this hungry world to miss out on the Bread of Life. The church is available for all to experience the spiritual feast of Jesus.

In this story, Jesus was trying to lead people from the fragments of material bread to the Bread of Life, which is far better than anything else: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (v. 35). It includes everything in it and plus eternal life in God’s kingdom. Thus, the Bread of Life deserves to be our primary and ultimate concern.

Through this symbolic lesson, Jesus was trying to teach us to look beyond something temporal, put the first thing first, or build a deeper relationship with God if we want to be well enough for our daily life. Remember, Jesus says, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33).

Facing the Giants
This Scripture talking about the Bread of Life reminds me of a Christian movie, “Facing the Giants.” It is based on the true story of Grant Taylor, a high school football head coach. This awesome movie made me laugh, cry, clap and cheer! But most of all, this movie was so inspirational, I was moved to seek out the Bread of Life.

In six years of coaching, Mr. Taylor had never led his team to win a game in every football season. Finally, his school government was considering demoting him to the status of ordinary coach. This wasn’t the only problem he was facing; his car was breaking down, the parents were trying to get him fired, and he discovered that he is the reason that his wife couldn’t become pregnant. Almost all things in his life had failed.

Devastated by his miserable situations, Mr. Taylor was now looking for solutions. He didn’t seek out any supplies or daily food but tried to build his own relationship with God, based on the Scripture, “God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer in whom I take refuge” (Ps. 18:2). He then, along with his boys, he created a new coaching philosophy, that is, “if we win, we will praise the Lord; if we lose, we will praise the Lord.” From that point on, he experienced lots of changes in his life: all of his players respected him and followed his direction; their parents came to trust in him; and he even got a brand new car from an anonymous donor.

Yet, the real miracle happened in the football season. His team had never won even in the regional league, but they were now starting to win games. At the final match, his team made a dramatic reversal and won the game. It was the first State Championship that his high school won in their history. But this was not the end. His miracles continued; he and his wife had two children of their own.

We are like Grant Taylor facing the giants, facing all kinds of crisis in life. When we feel like we’ve hit the bottom of life, we don’t know where to start or how to rebuild our life again. This movie reminds us that our daily (temporary) bread can’t keep us from troubles, but the Bread of Life (our faithfulness in God) has the power to restore us, fill us up, and bless all of our life.

Labor for the Bread of Life
What kind of bread do we want to seek out? No matter what it is, there is nothing free. We have to pay for all the supplies and necessities we want to have. Likewise, the Bread of Life is not free. We have to “buy” it as we seek out God’s grace and power. (next Sunday, we will talk about what we can do to earn God’s grace).

If we really know that God is the true source of our life, then, let us labor for the Bread of Life which does not perish but endures to eternal life (v. 27), through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and f