Sermon: The Mercy of God

June 23, 2019
Second Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 7:36-50
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

The Mercy of God

Civil Law vs. God’s Grace
As I said before, I am not a money person. I rarely check out the bill statements from my banks. When I opened the online banking through the website, I saw there was a late fee on my credit card. I immediately called the credit card company and asked their mercy for a refund. The staff tried to refund my money back, but he couldn’t, because the banking system didn’t allow him to do it. Civil law is not flexible. It hardly tolerates our mistakes and faults.  

We know that God is the Judge; he rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. If our Lord was so strict with his judgment according to our deeds and acts, how many of us could live in peace and stand with a whole body before the Lord? 

Unlike our civil law, however, God is flexible, tolerable, and merciful in his judgment: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Ps. 145:8). In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter asked Jesus, “How many times are we supposed to forgive those who are against us? Up to seven times?” Jesus replied, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mt. 18:12), which means perfect forgiveness. Jesus himself showed a good example of God’s mercy when he died on a cross, praying for his enemies, “Father, forgive them.” 

No one is righteous before God and we all know it. Yet we also know that we are all forgiven sinners. We are forgiven because God is merciful enough, Jesus died for us, and we are saved by God’s grace. Therefore, we don’t want to live by law but live by faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. 

The Pharisee and The Woman and Jesus Christ
The Gospel lesson for this morning is a good example to teach us that God in Jesus desires mercy and wants us to be merciful to people around us. In this story, Jesus was invited to a notable Pharisee, Simon’s, home to dine with him (v. 36). Surprisingly, an unexpected woman came to their dinner table. We don’t know why, but she just wept and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment (vv. 38-39). The people there were upset because she was an intruder to their dinner party, but Jesus was fine with this strange woman and even let her touch his feet. 

What kind of woman was she? The story simply says that she came from the street and that she was a sinner. If we go deeper into our interpretation, we can assume that she might be a widow who had little income, and therefore she had to sit on the roadside to beg for food or money. Perhaps she was divorced. Back in ancient times in Israel, a woman didn’t have the right to divorce her husband but a man was free to divorce his wife anytime for any reason. If she burned his toast he could divorce her. Today we say it’s unfair but they believed that it was God’s divine law. After being divorced, this woman probably had to live a life tempting men on the street and people called her a prostitute or a sinner. 

However, we really don’t know what kind of woman she was. All we know from the Bible is that she was a streetwalker and she was called a sinner. That’s it! Nevertheless, if we continue to judge her, it is all about our preconceptions. But this very little information about her life was good enough for Simon (Pharisee) to be angry with her when she burst in. “How dare this sinner come into my house!” was what he grumbled in his heart. Yet, that little information was good enough for Jesus to welcome her and even allow her to kneel and touch his feet. 

Here is another point we need to consider. What made this woman run to Jesus? Why was she desperate for Jesus and willing to submit her whole body to him? Before we answer this question, we should remember that her community judged her as a sinner and she probably didn’t have many friends to chat, eat together, or hang around with her. Wherever she went, whomever she met, she must have felt ashamed. One day she probably heard that there was a man named Jesus who didn’t have any discrimination in his fellowship. She probably heard people saying he was a prophet or Messiah who was sent from God. She also heard people saying he was a good friend of sinners. That’s why she wanted to come forward to Jesus.

This Gospel lesson leads us to question ourselves: “What kind of friends do we have?” What kind of people do we want to invite to our community? Are we willing to eat together with those who don’t seem deserving of our friendship? Are we going to be fine when some strangers suddenly burst into our gatherings? Do we even desire to reach out to befriend the unwelcome people? 

The Bible says that God is the final Judge and nobody is free from God’s rage, so we must repent before it’s too late… But today’s story in the Gospel teaches us that God doesn’t stop with judgment upon sinners (all human beings). Jesus’ final reaction to this woman was not judgment but mercy and salvation. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (v. 50).  

Whatever sin it was, the woman was forgiven when she submitted her entire body under Jesus’ feet, which was the signature act of her repentance. Her action sharply contrasted the Pharisees, who were blatantly judgmental of the woman. Yet, Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace” (v. 50). He didn’t judge her previous life at all. When she came forward to Jesus, she was forgiven and received God’s peace. This story demonstrates that we are saved, not by our deeds, but by our faith in Jesus and God’s grace. 

Living in God’s Peace
Writer, Philip Yancey says that God’s grace is like water–it always flows to the lowest part. While flowing downhill, it touches all things fairly. Likewise, Jesus Christ, the perfect sign of God’s grace and love, came down to seek the lost, touch the broken-hearted, forgive those condemned as sinners, and bring God’s salvation to all creation in the world. Nobody can stop God’s grace flowing to the lowest places or the lowest people, because everybody deserves God’s grace. 

I don’t know what kind of person you think you are and how satisfied you are with your beings. Are you ashamed because you aren’t handsome enough, smart enough, rich enough? Is your heart burdened because you don’t have a good job; you aren’t married; perhaps you are a minority or LGBTQ…You don’t meet all those expectations that our culture, customs, politics or religion of today demand for us. 

Don’t be ashamed of who you are or what you do. The God of mercy is there in our broken hearts, whispering, “You are good enough for me; my grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Like water, God’s grace will seek out those low places in your life, and God wants to be with you to sustain and bless your life. Let us remember that we are saved, not by what we do, but we are saved by God’s grace through Jesus. We are saved by faith in Jesus. As we come forward to Jesus this morning, therefore, let us live our lives in God’s peace. Amen.

10th Annual Leap of Faith Concert

Come worship in song at RUMC’s 10th Annual Leap of Faith Concert on Sunday November 3, 2019 at 10 am. Rockville United Methodist Church, 142 Grove Street, Rockville, CT 06066. The concert features our Leap of Faith Choir led by Jereme Martineau with a special performance by The Grove Street Music Project. A free will offering will be collected at the concert with the proceeds going to the RUMC music budget.

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.

MCM Fundraiser – cookies and cake rolls

Looking for a holiday cake roll? Would Santa like hot cookies on Christmas Eve? We are selling Joyful Traditions Cake Rolls and Otis Spunkmeyer cookie dough at Rockville United Methodist Church. We have four kinds of cake rolls that are ready to just thaw and serve: chocolate crème, strawberry cheesecake, red velvet, and pumpkin. Otis Spunkmeyer cookies are easy to bake and available in eight flavors: chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, triple chocolate chunk, strawberry shortcake, butter toffee crunch, and snickerdoodle.

The sale is from October 13, 2019 to November 4, 2019. The frozen desserts will be available for pick up, just in time for Thanksgiving, starting on Friday November 22, 2019 at Rockville United Methodist Church, 142 Grove Street, Rockville, CT 06066. Check out our online store for this fundraiser:

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.

Dr. Belinda Forbes Lecture and Pot Luck Supper

Dr. Forbes Lecture and Pot Luck Supper
October 30, 2019
6 pm

Dr. Belinda Forbes is going to tell us about her work providing dental care to remote locations in Nicaragua, where people often have to travel over a day’s journey for medical care.  Please bring a pot luck item to share.

2019 Belinda Forbes Flyer

Pasta Dinner and Auction

Pasta Dinner and Auction

Enjoy the fellowship of an Italian meal followed by the excitement of a Live Auction.

September 14, 2019
6 pm

Pasta with vegan sauce, meatball, salad, roll and dessert with a Silent Auction throughout the meal.  Gluten-free pasta available upon request.

The Live Auction begins at 7 pm.  

September 14, 2019 Pasta Dinner & Auction

Singers Needed – 2019 Leap of Faith Concert

Singers needed to join our annual Leap of Faith concert on Sunday morning November 3, 2019. Rehearsals are Thursday nights and every other Tuesday beginning at 7pm on September 5, 2019. 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.

Sermon: The Holy Spirit With and For Us

June 16, 2019
Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:14-17
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

The Holy Spirit With and For Us

Life Is Unfair
We have an unresolved long debate on life: “Is life good or bad” or “Is it easy or hard?” What kind of perspective do you have on life? Throughout my life’s journey in this world so far, I have learned that life seems unfair. Somebody is born rich, but somebody else is born poor; somebody has a lot, but somebody else doesn’t have much; somebody is healthy, while somebody else is unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that when we are happy with our privileged things, we must feel guilty and need to be in a lousy mood all the time. We need to recognize that life is neither easy nor fair.

I hope each of us realizes that life is hard sooner rather than later, so we will not have any fantasy of earthly life but seek out God’s help. Don’t get me wrong. I really don’t wish tragedies on anyone else. I don’t wish for anyone to worry about finance problems. I don’t wish for anyone to struggle with physical or mental illness. I don’t wish for anyone to have to deal with alcoholism or drug abuse in themselves or in their families. No Christian should wish harm to anyone. However, I am saying that life is hard and we are weak. Therefore, we must rely on God, the source of all creation.

Look Around and Look Up
When troubles come and we feel powerless, we may sometimes be tempted to give up our life. I had a time to look for a counselor when I was really tired of my life. One day my therapist asked, “Have you ever felt suicidal?” I said, “Sometimes yes, but I endured it.” She continued to ask, “What made you overcome it?” At my lowest point, I was tempted to give up my life, but then I had to think about somebody else, particularly, my mother.

When we get to the end of a rope and feel there will be no more hope in life, we need to look around and look up. If we just give up and finish our life because it is too painful to endure, we may be free from dealing with pain and despair, but we should know that somebody else has to carry our burdens instead of us. Our suffering is not gone; it is only moved to another person.

What if our Father God just gave up on us because he is really sick and tired of forgiving our sins and taking care of our lives? Then, God might be free from all problems happening in the world, but we human beings would have to deal with all the troubles and tragedies with our own limited power. Without God’s support, no one could say, “Life is good.”

When life is really painful, don’t only look at yourself but look around and look up to see who is around you. Surely, life is neither easy nor fair, but we can still keep it going on and even celebrate it because God our Father, who is with us, doesn’t give up hope and love for us.

The Holy Spirit Praying for Us
In this Pentecost season, we give God thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit according to his Son Jesus’ promise to his disciples. What we couldn’t do, Christ has already done for us. He has lived the life we cannot live and died the death we don’t want to die. And Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Christ has sent the Holy Spirit on us, so that we can call God “Abba, Father” (v. 15). As God’s children, we have the power of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor and Comforter, the One who stands beside us and prays with us and for us, especially in our tough times.

In Romans, the disciple Paul talks about the present suffering we have to deal with as long as we live on earth. According to him, the whole creation is groaning like a woman in labor pains (v. 22). Even men and boys feel pain like women in hard labor. What Paul says is, “Life is hard.”

In numerous cases, troubles come from our relationship with people, even people we love and trust. Our beloved can’t stay with us forever, but someday they will leave us alone. That is why the Lord Jesus warns us not to love anyone more than God! The person who never causes us a grief in our life, or even the person who loves and cares for us still cannot be our God. No matter how good they are to us, they will all fail us later as they die or leave us!

It is not just the people in our lives. Deliberately or not, we also hurt our own lives. Sometimes our body lets us down. Sometimes our emotion lets us down. The disciple Paul confesses about his weakness in Romans 7: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it…. Wretched man that I am!” (7:19-20, 24).

But Paul doesn’t give up hope although he knows life is hard or sinful. He continues to say, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25). Taking our attention from ourselves to Jesus Christ, Paul encourages us not to look at ourselves but look around and look up to find the salvation that comes from God.

God made us for worship. If we do not worship the true God but still say we worship the Lord, then we may only worship God’s gifts instead of the Giver. For now, we may be happy because we feel our lives are blessed with all those gifts. Yet, if we only worship God’s gifts and all the gifts are gone away, we may have to see ourselves struggle with the sense of emptiness of life. Loved ones die or leave us alone. Children grow up and go their own way. Our bodies grow weak as we get older. Our money has never saved us from the power of death and sin. Worship wrong things, and, yes, there will be a time we may have to say again that life is hard.

In this regard, the Lord Jesus was not being mean when he said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). He didn’t mean that we must not love and trust any one, but he was warning us not to worship wrongly. He was trying to remind us that God our Father is the true One who can save us from troubles and help us live in peace and joy.

Time to Receive the Holy Spirit
When we feel we hit the bottom of life, it’s time to look around and look up, not to give up. In the midst of our troubled life, Jesus promises all his disciples and us today, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you” (John 14:18). He promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with us forever (v. 15). In Romans, Paul says that the Spirit is to pray with and for us. Therefore, we are not alone, not abandoned, not orphaned, and not deceived by anything false from the world because the Risen Christ stands in our midst by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we are afraid, when we are in want, when we lack faith, it is time to turn to God and receive the Holy Spirit. Life is not easy, but life is good because the Holy Spirit is now with us, praying for us, leading us, carrying our burdens, and providing hope of life for us. Thanks be to God! Amen!