Palm Sunday Virtual Service and Pastor Cheol’s Sermon: Strengthen Hope in the Passion

Please join us for our Palm Sunday Virtual Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link:  https://youtu.be/btVHEYuydko

 

Please be sure to turn up the volume on your PC or tablet.  Enjoy!
Send prayer requests and announcements to the church office if you would like to be included in next week’s virtual service.
We are excited to be able to remain connected during this challenging time.  Feel free
to share the service with friends and family.

April 05, 2020 [Red or Purple]
Passion/Palm Sunday (Sixth Sunday in Lent)

Psalm 46:1-3; Matthew 27:57-61

 Strengthen Hope in the Passion

The gloomy season

Weather in our New England is so fickle, especially, around this time of the year. It’s warm one day and just the next day cold again. I am always confused about whether the month of April is spring or winter. Spring has come and Easter is just next week, but emotionally I felt like I had to start the Lenten journey all over.

Liturgically, this Sunday is also one of the hardest days of the entire church year on which the Son of God was betrayed and killed by the humanity whom he so loved. Through our Palm/Passion Sunday, we are invited to see our capricious hearts that welcome the Christ by shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” with a song of praise one moment, and nailing him to the cross the next. This story is not about some other people at some other time. It is about all of us.

Walking with Joseph

Today, we are walking with a man named “Joseph” whom we don’t know much about. According to our Gospel lesson for this morning, he has the courage to ask Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ dead body because he wants to carry it from Golgotha to the tomb. His pace will be slow with such a heavy burden.

Perhaps Joseph is numb from the horrible events of the day; Jesus who was hailed by people as their Messiah was just crucified as a criminal and died on a cross. Looking at the dead body of Jesus, he might say to himself, “How could the man called the Messiah end his life like this? How come the righteous man was killed, and Barabbas, the notorious murderer, can be allowed to roam the streets? If this is the kingdom I have been hoping for through this man, I don’t want any part of it!”

This unexpected event must have caused him to struggle with all kinds of negative thoughts. He might be worried about the prospect of life without Jesus in this world. He might be disappointed with the fact that all his disciples and followers ran to their homes and locked the doors. He might even doubt his promise of God’s kingdom. Whatever his thoughts, it is certainly a gloomy walk.

His questions and concerns are familiar to us today, aren’t they? Just like him, we are shocked to see our world has been shaken by this invisible enemy. Just like him, we are in a panic and afraid that this ruthless virus is roaming on our streets.  Just like him, we are  disappointed that we must stay home to keep “social distancing” and even “self-quarantine.” Just like him, we are struggling with those negative questions of “Why this” or “Why me.”

Joseph’s broken heart is ours; his concern is ours; his disappointment is ours as well. Once again, the Passion story is not about some other people in some other time, but it is our story of today. Carrying the dead body of Jesus, he may have also struggled with a question like “How can I get through this trial?” And we know this is also our question of today.

“God is with us”

My answer to this question is so simple and clear: “Raise your head and live with “hope!” I can even say that we can use this tough trial as an opportunity to deepen and strengthen our hope in God. “Hope? What are you talking about? Don’t you know what happened to our world?” … Friends, if our time is always perfect without any worry or challenge, we don’t need to have hope and we don’t need to rely on God our Savior. Then, what is the reason for us to live with hope in this time of anxiety and uncertainty?

When I was in my prayer time as usual, God gave me the passage from Psalm 46. The verse 1 in this poem says that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” And I was inspired to have in my mind the picture of a little lamb and the shepherd: the lamb was stuck in down at the bottom of a deep valley covered by thorns and thistles, and the shepherd reached out to pick up his lost lamb. What I can see in this picture is that God is not there to stop the tragedy from happening, as much as we might want, but God is there to help us climb back out of the valley.

In our worship or in our prayer, we like to confess our faith such as God is our heavenly Father; God is stronger than anything; nothing is able to separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Savior; God already dwells in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. Most of all, we believe that Christ was risen from the grave; after his own resurrection, he visited his disciples hidden in the dark room, saying “Peace be with you!” He promised to give us the Holy Spirit who will teaches us what to say and what to do when we are being persecuted.

All we say or confess in our faith is, in a word, to believe “God is with us,” doesn’t’ it? If we really confess this and believe this, friends, what are we afraid of? Does “God is with us” mean that there is no trouble in our life? You know this answer is No! God never promises in the Bible that there would be no trouble in our lives because He is with us, but God promises that when we are in trouble, we are still given hope because He is with us. God is there to help us when we are in our trouble. That is our hope!

Regardless of this coronavirus outbreak, we know life is hard, life is unfair, life is so fickle that we don’t know what will happen next moment. When we have to get through the stormy time, our hearts are more agitated about looking forward to a new day. But friends, let me remind you of this truth which you have already learned from your life journey: Without dark nights, can we really appreciate sunny days? Without heavy rain, can we really expect to see a rainbow in the sky? Without tasting the pain of defeat, can we really know how wonderful the final victory is?

Although we are always tempted to rush to the glory of Easter, we know we are called to get through Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday: days which all talk about the cross of pain and suffering. We have to wait a little longer to hail the final victory. While waiting, we will not be afraid and panic but remain strong in hope because we know we are not alone but with God.

Walking in hope

Today we are walking with Joseph full of concerns and disappointments. Just like him, we also are surprised to see that our world God so loves has been shaken by this invisible enemy and this ruthless virus is roaming on our world. How dare this happen!?

Yet, unlike Joseph, we don’t want to walk in gloomy thoughts. Rather we still want to walk in hope because we are not carrying the dead body on our shoulders but we are carrying the Good News that “God is with us.” As we trust the promise of God’s presence and keep this risen Christ deep in our heart, we can always have tremendous hope for today, tomorrow, and all eternity. Our faith of “God is with us,” that is our hope, our shield, our shelter, and our rock for our life journey in this time of trial.

March 29th Virtual Service and Pastor Cheol’s Sermon: Do not panic, but pray in times of suffering

Please join us for our March 29th Virtual Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/UTICweRxu5g

Please be sure to turn up the volume on your PC or tablet.  Enjoy!
Send prayer requests and announcements to the church office if you would like to be included in next week’s virtual service.
We are excited to be able to remain connected during this challenging time.  Feel free
to share the service with friends and family.

Sermon Message

March 29, 2020 [Purple] Fifth Sunday in Lent
James 5:13-18

Do not panic but pray in the time of suffering

Out of our control

Ever since the coronavirus was announced as a pandemic, fear has been rising all around the world. Just a few weeks ago, all the schools were closed and churches had to cancel their services. Then last week, we got a strict order from the governor stating that all of the nonessential businesses must be closed and we must stay home for the whole week. Last week was probably the worst week in our history. But I have heard that following weeks will be much worse, and that this horrible situation will continue for months. Lots of people shouted in panic, “I have never experienced these things in my life.”

From time to time we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis. Whatever it is that happens, if it is out of our control, we begin to be afraid and panic. And this coronavirus is something that is out of our control. Have you ever asked anyone how they’re doing, and they responded, “I’m doing okay under the circumstances!” You know there are things simply out of our control. Think about the weather. Whether you like today’s weather or not, you have to live with it. You can’t control your circumstances at work. You can’t control your neighbor’s lifestyles. You can’t even control your own kids, right? There are so many things we can’t control by our power. It is just because we are human beings. Maybe, we have to set aside our worry and just entrust this coronavirus to God as we know God is the only one who can control all things that happen.
The power of praying together

Anyway, I am just like you guys. When things are not in my control, I feel agitated in my heart. Along with you, I am so upset that I can’t see you guys and worship God in our church. “O Lord, didn’t you call me to serve your people and worship you with them as their pastor or friend? But how can I do my job unless we can come together? How can I comfort your people from anxiety and strengthen their faith? What can I do at this challenging time?” These are the questions I have been struggling over the past week… With my anxious heart, I come to the church, kneel down to pray, and lift up all your names. I feel so powerless because there is nothing I can do only except pray. One day when I prayed to God as usual, however, He inspired me with bible verse from the book of James: “Are any among you suffering? You should pray.” (v. 13).

When I talked with you on the phone last week, just checking on how you are doing, I came to realize that my questions are yours as well. Each of you asked me “How are you doing? How is your mom doing? How are our sisters and brothers doing?” Of course, you guys are also God’s servants, and as God’s servants you want to take care of people in suffering, right? Just like me, you are struggling with questions like “What can I do in this time of suffering?” To help answer your questions, let me share with you my inspiration and ask you to pray with me. “Are any among you suffering? Let us pray!”

In today’s passage, James calls us to pray for healing when we are suffering: “Are any among you suffering? Are any among you sick? [you should pray!”] (vv. 13-14). But if we read it carefully, we realize that his instruction is not an individual prayer but a communal prayer, which means praying all together for those in suffering.

If my sense is right, however, most people are not good at sharing their vulnerability with others. If they happen to suffer from illness, their first reaction is to try to handle it on their own. But that is not God’s will for the body of Christ. Instead, James instructs us to call the elders or leaders of the community, bring other members together, confess our sins to one another, and to pray for one another, so that we may be healed (vv. 14-16). He really says when we pray together, healing grace will be given to us.

Yes, we believe God hears our prayer and prayer changes things! But we also know sometimes that’s not true. Maybe there have been times when you prayed and nothing seemed to happen. Even faithful people can become terribly sick and die although they pray for God’s healing. How do we reconcile this reality with the promises of God’s healing in this passage?

Perhaps the healing James mentions is not just about physical healing. If it is only for physical healing, he should recommend that we take the sick to a physician. Perhaps praying together for the sick goes deeper than the physical condition. If you know someone is praying for you, you may feel your heart, your emotion, your spirit is touched by God’s hands, and you may get assurance that you had partners for the journey ahead.

Prayer is not only about our pleas to God. Rather it builds a relationship. It brings us companionship. It connects us with God and one another. Indeed, James calls us to pray together, sing songs of praise together, call for the elders and members together, confesses our sins to one another. These are all about relationships, companionship, and loving and living together as a family. Even if we suffer for a while, we can quickly overcome it because there is always grace and power when we share things together as a family.

Friends, I haven’t seen you for the past two weeks. Yet I feel much closer to you than ever before. I believe it is because I keep you all in my prayers every day. In today’s passage, James instructs us to ask the elders of the church to pray for the sick (v. 14). I want to let you know I am in prayer for you, my family. I pray for God’s protection for your lives, your family, and your workplaces. But friends, a pastor is not the only one who is called to pray for the church family. Each one of us is called to pray for one another, that we may have God’s healing grace (v. 16). And I know you have kept me and all of us in your prayers. We must not let anyone among us suffer alone. We as a family in God should reach out to each other in prayer.

With this spirit of our family-ship in God, let us look around our world. Just as the church is the body of God, this earth is the body of God. Just as all the members of this church are our family, all human races living on the earth are our family in God. Today our world has been shaken and threatened by the power of the coronavirus, and we have to see millions of people who are suffering. We feel broken-hearted because we know they are also God’s children and our brothers and sisters in God. What can we do in this time of challenge? We should take this global disaster as ours and pray for God’s salvation for our world.
The power of prayer

We must never underestimate the power of prayer. God answers our requests for help exactly as we ask, but sometimes not. Either way, the Bible calls us to be faithful in prayer. Ephesians 6:18 teaches us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” In James, we hear that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly… that the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” (vv. 17-18). Was there magic in his prayer? No, prayer is not about magic. It is about moving God to take action. James even says in today’s passage that it is more powerful and effective to pray all together than pray alone.

Our world is suffering and many people among us are suffering. What can we do? In the midst of this challenging time, let us stop panicking but pray for one another, pray for those who are suffering, pray for those who fight on the front lines, pray for our leadership and pray for our wounded world. The Bible says that “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (v. 16). Amen. —— =

March 22nd Virtual Service and Pastor Cheol’s Sermon: Keep Your Eyes On Jesus Christ

Please join us for our 1st Virtual Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link:
Please be sure to turn up the volume on your PC or tablet.  Enjoy!
Send prayer requests and announcements to the church office if you would like to be included in next week’s virtual service.
We are excited to be able to remain connected during this challenging time.  Feel free to share the service with friends and family.


March 22, 2020 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ

Why me?

Just like you, I am also upset, anxious, and scared about this ongoing global outbreak of coronavirus. Over the past week, I got lots of cancellation texts from my counselor, my dentist, my social discussion group, my cat’s vet, etc. The other day when I went to the gym, I saw a notice on the door that they had closed the gym. Out of my painful heart, I also had to decide to cancel our Sunday worship service and all other activities in our church. What’s even more concerning is that we don’t know when we are coming back to worship again in church. I hope it is just before Easter Sunday, which is only three weeks away, but some of us said that we may not be able to return until Christmas, which is ten months later. Well, I know it was a kind of joke, but it can be a reality. Everything is uncertain and that is our panic.

Along with you friends, I am also concerned about how this corona concern will affect our worship and ministry. If it continues for a long time, no doubt it will cause our membership to decline, financial income to decline, spiritual decline… “Where are you leading our church, Lord?” I had to sigh when I prayed. “Lord, I had been praying for growth of our church, but what is this, why did you let it happen, why did this bad thing happen in this time, why, why, why?” I had to grumble to God.

Keep our eyes on Jesus

When I was struggling with this kind of negative “why” question, I got an email from our District Superintendent, Rev. David Calhoun. In his message, he was trying to give us a pastoral guideline, just like I have sent you my emails and letters just try to comfort you. Let me share with you a part of his message:

“My thoughts and prayers have been with you during this challenging time… In times of pain we often ask the wrong questions, such as, Why me? Perhaps the right questions to ask are, What can I learn from this? What good can come from this? What can I accomplish in spite of it?  … We need to hear the important words of hope that are essential, in times such as these… It is my prayer that each of us try to develop a mindset that refuses to give up and become discouraged. No one welcomes pain and discomfort, but with the right attitude we can bring about transformation.”

This is a very powerful and uplifting guideline, isn’t it? It reminds me that Christ’s disciples are called not to shrink in fear but to jump with courage in the crisis of our world and fight the good fight. This message switched my mindset and prompted me to ask God, “What can I do in this time of challenge?” And I hope all of us have this kind of positive question and confront this time of challenge. In doing so, we can turn this stumbling block into a stepping stone!

How can we do that? You know God is much bigger and stronger than the coronavirus. You know when we come before the Lord, God will put a shield of protection around us. Under the shade of his merciful hands, we can always find true peace, true safety, and true life. Perhaps this is the time we must show our faith, our discipleship, and our commitment more, as we seek God’s saving hands.

In today’s scripture from Matthew’s Gospel, we see the disciples were in panic as their boat was battered by the storm. When the disaster happened and they were terrified, who showed up? Jesus was walking on the water. And what did he say? “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (v. 27). But Peter looked around and saw the storm coming up to him, and he began to sink again. The key lesson in this story is, don’t look around but keep your eyes on the Lord.

Yes, we live in the time of anxiety and uncertainty. This coronavirus is a global challenge and we are really concerned about our future. Yet if we are honest, we know this coronavirus is not something new. We have been shouldering this kind of heavy burden, stress, and anxiety all the time. The best image to describe about our life-struggle is the “rat-race.” We rush about here, and we hurry over there, and then we see ourselves always tired, hurt, anxious and scared. Perhaps, this coronavirus is just an addition to our rat-race.

The bad news is that if you stay in the rat-race, even if you win, you’re still a rat, always getting stressed and anxious about your future life. The good news is that the Savior Jesus shows up when you are in trouble. But there is one condition if you want to hold his saving hands, that is, you must keep your eyes on him, not look around. If you look around, you will go back to your rat-race full of storms of life. But when you keep your eyes on Jesus Christ, you can always walk on the water.

Jesus’ eyes on us

I need to confess that I sometimes fall into the rat-race. I sometimes feel too tired to answer emails and phone messages… I am sometime anxious about everything… I sometimes feel like bleeding in my heart… I am sometimes tempted to stay alone, away from all of people.

Then I think about my Lord Jesus and I know from the Gospels that he was also very busy with his ministry, often broken-hearted, and even threatened by his enemies. How did he handle or overcome the moment of crisis? Did he give up? Did he run away? Did he close the doors? Did he stay away from all the crowds, just like we are doing now from this challenge of the coronavirus?

In the Gospel of Matthew 12:14-15, we can see Jesus was intimidated by the Pharisees; they tried to conspire against him, so they could destroy his life. It means Jesus confronted a terrible threat. When you happen to hear someone is coming to kill you and you don’t think it’s quite time to die, the first reaction you will have it to escape and hide in a secret place, right? And I believe that is what we are doing today. Like us, Jesus also decided to move away and hide somewhere just to protect his own life. But the following passage says that in his own refuge, he still welcomed people and healed their illness. Even in his own critical situation, Jesus still kept his eyes on others’ needs.

Nothing prevents Jesus from loving and caring for his people. No matter what situation he had to struggle with, he never withdrew himself from people; he never closed the door of his heart; he never ignored people’s need. The cross Jesus took up was pretty heavy and stressful, but his cross was not like ours. If ours is the cross of rat-race, the cross of anxiety and uncertainty, Jesus’s cross is for serving us and giving us salvation.

Take Jesus’ yoke

Don’t get me wrong, my friends, I don’t encourage you to open your doors and rush into people right now. We must be reasonable and practical as we follow the advice of the CDC and the medical professionals. But while staying home or wherever you are, I want you to remember this and practice this. That is, when we happen to be in trouble, our Savior Jesus comes to us and gives his hands to save us (remember this); and we should keep our eyes on Jesus (practice this), that we can have a true protection around our lives, and further, we can even give our hands to save others who are still walking around living in fear.

May the God of all graces bless you and keep you all and may you keep your faith tight in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.