June 21st Worship Service: “Be Bold Enough to Cause Trouble”

You can watch the service by pressing the play button above. You may view the service in ‘full-screen’ by pressing the F key on your keyboard after clicking play. Alternatively, the service is available on YouTube via this link: https://youtu.be/8JQzGlsEDRs

We are excited to be able to remain connected during this challenging time. Feel free to share the service with friends and family.

Enjoy & please subscribe to our YouTube channel and encourage others to do so, and please also leave a comment at the bottom of the video (after the video is done you’ll see an area right below the video for comments).

Send prayer requests and announcements to the church office if you would like to be included in next week’s virtual service.

——————————————————————————————————————

June 21, 2020 [Green]
Third Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 10:24-39

Be Bold Enough to Cause Trouble

Hard to accept the gospel passage
Following our Christian calendar, this is the third Sunday after Pentecost. This is the season to highlight our discipleship and each Sunday, our lectionary provides us with Scriptures to deepen our discipleship. On the first Sunday, we had a lesson about how to build friendly relationships with people living around us. On the second Sunday, we learned that to follow Jesus, a friend of sinners, we must focus on how to stand with and for the socially marginalized in our communities.

However, I need to confess that today’s scripture is really hard to accept just for my own devotions. Not only I, but many other pastors will be reluctant to preach on this passage. Let me read some of them: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household” (vv. 34-36).

We don’t like these passages for several reasons. First, this doesn’t sound like the word of our lovey-dovey, warm and fuzzy Jesus we used to know. Second, how can Jesus, who is known as the prince of peace, instruct us to go out and cause trouble and make people enemies of each other? (we don’t get it). Third, if some visitors, who are not familiar with our Christian faith, join in our service and listen to this passage, they might not want to come back to church any more.

Why divided?
However, I didn’t give up on this passage because I always believe that when Jesus speaks, there must be something to it, so we should find out what he really wants to say to us. So, I kept meditating on this again and again until I got some inspiration, and you know what? In this same passage, I can see our old friend Jesus who is full of mercy and compassion: “Do not be afraid.” He said this word three times to his people (vv. 26, 28, 31). I am not going to read them all because of our time limit, but just mention to you that here in this tough passage, you can hear one of his best caring words, [“God counts every hair on your head and you are more valuable than any sparrows”] (vv. 30-31).

Through these conflicting words, then, what on earth did Jesus want to teach his disciples? We need to see the background in this passage. Today’s reading is an extension of the reading of last week in which we saw Jesus send out his disciples on their mission to proclaim the Gospel through the world. Yes, Jesus was always compassionate and loving to his people when he was with them. But now he was about to send them out into the world, so he needed to give them a heads-up. Perhaps he was trying to warn them that as his disciples, they would be experiencing rejection, persecution, and even death on their mission.

Well, as far as I know, Jesus’s mission is all about good. He forgave all human sins, he healed the sick, he looked after the lost, he brought God’s love to the world. Following him, our ministry is also all about love, peace, reconciliation, charity, service and care. In biblical terms, we are a grace-giver, and we even give grace for free. Well then, I think we deserve to be welcomed, not persecuted.

So, what’s the problem with our ministry? Perhaps, we the givers are not the problem, but the recipients are the problem. Let me give you my own experience to help you understand:

In my previous ministry, I met a young man who had to go to a jail because he did something stupid. Almost one year later, he was released on probation, but when he came out, he found himself totally alone. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a happy family to welcome him back. He lost his job and nobody wanted to hire him. Of course, this young man didn’t have enough money. It seemed like he didn’t have many friends to buy him lunch. In terms of the Gospel, yes, he was the lost sheep Jesus calls us to look after and care for. So, I brought that issue to the church and tried to discuss how we as the church could
support him. Guess what? The church was divided; I got several pros and lots of cons. The opposers, simply put, didn’t want to welcome an ex-convict to their community. Some of them even said that they don’t want him to hang around their kids. Well, if I spoke about God’s love and Jesus’ salvation only from the pulpit, everything would be OK, but when I tried to practice it in terms of church ministry, some people felt it was a challenge to their lives and separated themselves.

Let me give you one more example using a current issue. Friends, as you see, our country has been struggling with racial conflict and divided like a sword because of what has been shouted on the streets. We shout “All Lives Matter.” Are there any people who object to this truth – “All Lives Matter?” If we believe that all lives matter, why is our country divided by the words? I believe we not only say this, but bring it to the center of our society and even try to change our social and institutional systems with these words. That is why our country is divided. Sharers of the Gospel don’t intend to cause division but some recipients are not ready to receive it. Therefore, we are divided.

Here is a dilemma. On the one hand, we want truth, we want justice, we want to follow Jesus and live by his teachings. On the other hand, however, we don’t want to cause conflict and division and we don’t want to experience trouble because of what we shout and act. But if we really want to follow Jesus, we know we sometimes have to take risks. But the problem is, do we have that courage to cause trouble and face persecution even from our own families?
As the church, we sometimes experience conflict and division because each of us is different from the other. You know what happened over the past year. As a new pastor, I was so broken-hearted to see the church in conflict. Why didn’t I just talk about lovey-dovey, warm-fuzzy Jesus in my sermons? Why did I speak something that I can’t take back. I once regretted and even hoped to put everything down and run away. At that time, I got this meaningful gift from one of our brothers. (showing the cross that has the bible verse from 1 Cor. 16:13-14: “Be strong and courageous! For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you”).

Friends, we are called to go into the world, witness about the Gospel, and shake the world and wake up people to the truth. This is not an easy but risky ministry, and Jesus our Lord already warned us that we may confront persecution. But we also remember Jesus says “Don’t be afraid.”

Don’t be afraid
How do you want to raise your children? No doubt you want your children to live a life of light and salt in our society. Then you should not only be lovey-dovey, warm and fuzzy parents, but you know you sometimes have to be tough with your children in terms of discipline. “Don’t rock the boat” If that is your motto for your children, it’s a shame. You may want to try a new motto like “Be bold enough to stand for truth.” Yes, it is a risky word for your children, but you say this out of care and love, and you will do all you can to protect your children because you love them.

Likewise, Jesus sends his disciples out to the world, and yes, following Jesus and witnessing about his gospel will be risky, and we may face some persecution. But let us not be afraid, for we belong to the lovey-dovey, warm and fuzzy God who knows what we are doing, what we are speaking, what we are fighting for, and what we need for our life and ministry. Remember Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. God knows every hair on your head and you are more valuable than you will ever know.” Thanks be to God. Amen.

June 14th Worship Service: “Go to the Lost Sheep in our Society”

You can watch the service by pressing the play button above. You may view the service in ‘full-screen’ by pressing the F key on your keyboard after clicking play. Alternatively, the service is available on YouTube via this link: https://youtu.be/wdZviBPK29k

We are excited to be able to remain connected during this challenging time. Feel free to share the service with friends and family.

Enjoy & please subscribe to our YouTube channel and encourage others to do so, and please also leave a comment at the bottom of the video (after the video is done you’ll see an area right below the video for comments).

Send prayer requests and announcements to the church office if you would like to be included in next week’s virtual service.

——————————————————————————————————————

June 14, 2020 [Green]
Second Sunday After Pentecost

Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8

Go to the Lost Sheep in our Society

I am not a TV person, but since the Covid-19 outbreak, I have seriously watched the news on TV. The news on TV these days seems more tense and exciting than any movie. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all those recent events are good or fun to watch. Just like you, I am concerned about how those events affect our lives in the future. Watching the news, I often say to myself, “What can I do as God’s servant in this turbulent world?”

On the other hand, I also think this time may be a turning point in our history. Whenever humanity advances with new history, there are always signs of the end of an era, which usually brings us not only confusion but also hope about something new. Think about the process of childbirth. A mother gives birth to a child in unbearable physical pain. As soon as she gives birth, she forgets all the pain, rejoices with her baby, and begins to live a new life. Perhaps, this Covid-19, or these human justice protests which have brought us a lot of confusion and pain, will lead us to a new age. In fact, we are told that our earth has been getting healthier since the outbreak of this pandemic. We could also hope that these human justice protests will reform our country. That is why thousands of people came out on the streets every day to shout for justice. If we can pass on a healthy planet and a more peaceful and just world to our children, we can endure this temporary pain, right? (read. Roman 5:3-4).

Yet I can’t be completely optimistic and romanticize all those events, although I hope and believe they will lead us to a new age with a new civilization. How can I just say “Well, Mr. Floyd’s death provides a good opportunity to reform and rebuild our country?” Rather, I feel sadness and anger about the terrible crime that destroyed his life.
What’s even more painful to look at is that the pain-sharing is not being shared fairly. The Covid- 19 is a global disaster and no one can escape its threat, but the weight of the pain varies from person to person depending on their social class. For example, I saw on TV that rich people can simply sail to an island by boat to avoid this pandemic. They just take this disaster as a vacation, while countless lives fall helplessly into this catastrophe in a single day. Shouldn’t the wealthy or the powerful or the privileged be more responsible for the outbreak of this pandemic? But why do they suffer less and the poor, the needy, the weak, the alienated, the minority always have to suffer more?

“What can we do as God’s servants or Jesus’ disciples in this trying and painful time?” Watching all those unfair events that have wounded our world and destroyed many innocent lives, you and I have been deeply concerned about this question. Seriously, what can we do? When I meditated on today’s scripture from Matthew’s Gospel, I found inspiration for what to do in terms of our Christian ministry during this trying and painful time.

In our passage this morning, Jesus traveled along with his disciples around all the cities and villages in Israel, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God (v. 35). (In terms of our experiences of today, Jesus was leading his people to a new age; in fact, his kingdom movement transferred the Old Testament to the New Testament). How did he lead his kingdom movement? The passage says that while proclaiming the good news, he cured every disease and every sickness (v. 35); he took care of people who were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd (v. 36). This is one of the good passages to show how merciful and compassionate Jesus was especially for the people in need and in trouble.

The New Testament calls Jesus the Savior of the world, and indeed, we believe whoever believes in him will receive God’s salvation. Yet the Gospels also give him another title, that is, he is a “friend of sinners.” As this title implies, Jesus freely associated himself with the outcast of society: the poor, the demon-possessed, the lepers, prostitutes, tax-collectors, Samaritans (Jews who intermarried), and Gentiles (non-Jews). He was welcomed by people who were so-called sinners but rejected by the powerful and eventually killed by them because he took sides with the sinners of his day.

Jesus’ salvation ministry is not just an abstract story that God so loves the world. But his ministry has a specific purpose. According to the disciple Paul in Romans, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (vv. 6-8). If I add a comment on Paul’s words, Jesus Christ came to join in human suffering and pain; he reached out to the lost and brought them to God’s love; he fought to liberate the oppressed from all the social, political, and religious evil powers. Jesus came in a period of chaos (like today) where Israel was oppressed by Rome and pursued a new world called the Kingdom of God as he looked after the people who were abandoned from society.

In this time of transition in our history, what can we do as a church? We shouldn’t just sit back and endure all these confusions and troubles in our world. We have to do something to prepare for the coming of the new age. As servants of Christ, we know we are called to shine on the world, save souls, fight the good fight, and preach the Gospel to all the nations. Yes, indeed, we are called to bring God’s kingdom, in other words, a new age, a new history, a new civilization, here on earth. So, what can we do? How can we respond to all that is happening and lead our world to the right way?

Here in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has given his disciples and followers specific instructions for his kingdom ministry, that is, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Cure the sick, raise the dead, clean the lepers, cast out demons” (vv. 7-9).

Who are the lost sheep among us? You can see them on TV today. Actually, you can see them everywhere in our communities. They usually look hopeless, deserted, and lonely. They don’t have many friends. They don’t belong anywhere. In terms of Jesus’ day, they are sinners. In terms of our language today, they are the minorities of our society. But we should know that they are the people Jesus loved. We as the body of Jesus Christ must stand for them and reach out to them in God’s love. Amen.