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/llvchjWaY_I
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/unAjTawWYP8
Called to be born in darkness
The crisis of life What time is it now in your life? Is it daytime when you can enjoy the beautiful sunshine or is it midnight, a time to sleep. But you can’t sleep because you are worried about your future. There are times in our lives that we lay awake worrying night after night. Sometimes we are filled with the fear of losing all the things we have built. How do we manage this kind of crisis in our lives? In today’s Scripture in the Old Testament, we are told that Jacob spent all night, worrying about the possible destruction of his life.
The night of Jacob It had been 20 long years since Jacob left his family. In the previous chapter, we saw how Jacob was tricked by his uncle Laban and how he had to go through hardship for 20 years just to marry Rachel whom he loved with all his heart. In spite of all these hardships, however, life had gone pretty well for him during this time away. Now he had 4 wives (polygamy was the ancient culture), children, servants, and numerous flocks of animals. With an abundant family and possessions, he must have been a rich father and lord in his own household. After the birth of his eleventh son Joseph, Jacob began to think about going back to his homeland. He was no longer a young man but the head of his family; he had more than enough and didn’t want to live as his uncle’s servant. But homecoming was not easy for him because he was still afraid that his twin brother Esau was seeking revenge against him. (Remember, he cheated him out of his father’s blessing and Esau was so furious that he vowed to murder him). So, on his way back home, Jacob sent his servants ahead to meet Esau and search his heart. They returned and told Jacob, “We went to your brother Esau; he’s coming to meet you, and he’s bringing 400 men with him” (v. 6). Who needs 400 men just for a friendly family reunion? Esau’s retinue was nearly a small army that must be far larger and more powerful than his own. “What if my brother really attacks me? Then, my 20 year-labors in exile would turn to be nothing but ashes in a flash.” This was the worry that kept Jacob awake all night. He took his family and all possessions and sent them across the river. But he couldn’t cross over the river with them. He stayed behind and spent the whole night alone at the camp beside the river Jabbok. Maybe this was the most important night of his entire life. In the darkness of the night, Jacob came face to face with his own fear. Actually, he was not alone there but visited by a mysterious man who was either God or an angel of God (see Hosea 12:4). Jacob figured out that he was an extraordinary man. He felt great anxiety and wrestled with these thoughts with all his power until before daybreak (v. 24). Amazingly, this unexpected wrestling with God that night changed Jacob’s life forever. While wrestling, the man asked Jacob, “What is your name?” And he answered, “Jacob, and the man replied, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,” meaning “he struggles with God.” Previously he was Jacob, who was struggling with his own selfish ambition, but from now on he became Israel, who was called to struggle with God. In other words, with this new name Israel, Jacob could turn away from the
past and start a new life as a man of God. This name change is about conversion or transformation in terms of our Christian language. For this, we must not miss the point that in his wrestling with God, Jacob had a moment of confession, “I am Jacob.” When he confessed his name, he must have felt ashamed because the name Jacob means the grabber, the cheater, or the trickster and throughout his life, he had been a schemer. He knew how to manipulate people to get his way. In his encounter with God of holiness and righteousness, however, he couldn’t avoid the truth about himself. Out of his deep heart, he came to confess his sinful identity and surrender himself. In terms of our Christian language, Jacob confessed or repented and was forgiven and justified by God. [Just like Jacob, we too should confess before God if we desire to live a new life: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9)]. In addition to his new name, there was another thing that changed in his life. That is, Jacob had been wounded while wresting with Jacob. God struck him on his hip socket, and his hip was wrenched. Since then, Jacob had to live his life as a cripple. What Jacob wanted more than anything else was blessing. He had been so competitive, full of his own ambition, and only caring about his own success. But all of his life struggles ended up with brokenness. What does that mean? This physical brokenness looks like an unfortunate accident, but we must not miss the point that because of his own physical wounds, Jacob came to be born again as a new person. Before this brokenness, he had lived by his own power. But after this brokenness, he became limp, he couldn’t hide or run away, but he had to rely on God. Hard as it seems, our hardships or trials may be one of God’s ways of bringing us his blessing. When we are in trouble, we don’t feel blessed at all because we have to walk with a limp. But through it we turn to God and God is with us. I don’t know how that works, but maybe that is the best blessing one can receive. Lastly, I’d like to note that Jacob experienced this life-change not during the daytime but during the night. Speaking more correctly, God’s blessing was given to him not just in the nighttime itself, but when he wrestled with God all night. Jacob was born again as a man of God in his own darkness. In his own struggle with God, Jacob said “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Just like Jacob, we too shouldn’t give up but cling to God until we receive new hope and a new life.
Time to be blessed What time is it now in our life? Is it after midnight for us? But we can’t sleep well because of the worries that burden our hearts. Where are we going now? Is it a desert where we don’t have enough to survive? What is our name? Is it still Jacob? Is it grabber? Is it trickster? Is it selfishness? Is it disobedience? Is it stubbornness? Is it “my own way?” Whatever our name is, whatever our character is, whatever our emotions are, whatever our life has been, we must confess, surrender, and wrestle with God if we want to experience a life-change. To God’s people, the darkness is not a time of failure, not a time of worry and fear, but it is a time we face God; it is a time we must be honest about our identity; it is a time we feel desperate and wrestle with God until a new day comes to us. For my closing comment, I will read again what Jacob said when he wrestled with God: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Amen.
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/X9U65f_uVic
Call to Grow Mature in Love
Divine love of God
Have you ever had an experience where you can really feel someone’s concern even though that person hasn’t shared their thoughts with you? Yes, I am talking about telepathy. Perhaps a good example would be a mom caring for her baby. The baby is crying. No one knows why because it doesn’t say anything. But the mom goes and changes his/her wet diaper, and the baby stops crying. How did the mom know her baby’s problem? Does she really have the power of telepathy? No, it’s not telepathy but her own love that enabled her to sense why her baby was crying.
Our relationship with God is probably like that. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about our problem. We can’t because it is too heavy and painful to express aloud, so we just sigh with frustration and worry about our future. But nothing can shade God’s eyes and cloud God’s judgement. God knows us far better than we know ourselves. How come? Does God have the power of telepathy? Yes, the God we believe is the God of Almighty. He knows all things in the world. But I still want to say that God’s love is so deep and wide, that he knows what we struggle with and what we need for our blessed life.
When we are in love with someone, we want to know more about that person, fulfill what he/she wants, and dedicate ourselves to that person’s happiness. It’s not telepathy but love that makes us live a life of dedication for those we love. We call this life of dedication “sanctification” in our Christian language.
This Sunday, I want to continue the story about Jacob’ journey to sanctification in the Old Testament. Once again, this isn’t just Jacob’s story but God’s story as well. It is a story about how God disciplined Jacob to grow him to be the source of blessing for all races and nations. In terms of our Gospel language, God discipled Jacob to serve others and bring salvation into the world.
But Jacob wasn’t ready to live a life of sanctification or dedication to others. Rather, he was a very selfish man who lived only for his own interests. In the previous chapter, we saw that he even tried to grab God by making a business contract with him, saying if you bless me, I will give you the ten percent of my income; if you don’t bless me, you will have nothing from me. He was full of himself and didn’t care about serving God and blessing others. What kind of lesson would you suggest teaching someone like Jacob? Interestingly, God disciplined him by the power of love. Once again, love has the divine power to lead us to live a life of dedication.
In today’s chapter, Jacob finally arrived at his mother’s homeland, and he was welcomed by his uncle, Laban. There he fell in love with his younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob asked for Rachel in marriage in exchange for seven years of labor for his uncle. According to the story, “Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much” (v. 20).
The seven years finally ended, and Jacob was eager to claim his bride. On his wedding night, however, the trickster Jacob was ironically tricked himself. Laban gave him his older daughter Leah instead of Rachel. The man who had deceived his foolish brother and his blind father was himself deceived while blinded by night, or by too much drinking and celebrating. What goes around comes around!
But Jacob’s response in today’s story is so amazing. He didn’t act like the same Jacob who was used to tricking others. He didn’t trick his uncle; he didn’t try to take a shortcut; he didn’t hold a grudge or seek revenge against his uncle although he had been tricked by him so badly. Rather, he went back to his uncle’s field and worked hard for another seven years so he could finally marry Rachel. After the marriage, Jacob worked another 4 years for his uncle, but also had to work for Laban for 20 years. This means he gave up all of his youth for his love, Rachel.
What made this trickster so sincere and honest? What made this mama’s boy so passionate and laborious? What made this selfish and ambitious man so humble and faithful to his uncle? What made this young man so patient and tolerable? It was his own love for Rachel that was cast in his heart. For her he was willing to sacrifice his life; he could endure all the hardships of the desert; he could forgive his uncle’s tricks; and he could overcome his homesickness and loneliness in exile.
This is a love story but not a typical romantic story between the lovers. This is a story about how love transforms one’s life forever. Indeed, true love matures us, transforms us, and makes us dedicated to those we love with all our hearts, minds, and powers. In this regard, the disciple Paul is right – love is the greatest gift from God. God disciplined Jacob by the power of love and Jacob overcame his selfishness and became a servant of God who could bless all the races and all the nations.
A treasure in our life
“Friends, this isn’t just Jacob’s story but this is our story as well. This is a story about how God disciplines us to live a life of dedication. We don’t have the power of telepathy, but we have the divine love of God in our hearts. And it is this love that enables us to desire to know more about our neighbors, reach out to those in need, and bless
many others living around us. This story about Jacob’s love helps us look back to how much we love God and love our neighbors.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus teaches us that when we find or experience God’s grace, we must not bury or hide it in our backyard or in our ignorance (v. 44). We must show it and bring it to the world. Let us always remember God calls his servants to be blessings for all races and nations, and we can live out this life of dedication and sanctification because God gives us his divine love. Thanks be to God. Amen.”
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/i3cC6cBZmjQ
July 19, 2020 Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Green] Genesis 28:10-19a; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Called to be Committed to Growth
Do you have a special dream that you like to remember when you are in a difficult situation? In fact, when we feel desperate, we hope that God will just appear in a dream and show us the way we need to go. Today, we read an amazing story about one man’s encounter with God in his own dream. This dream is a very touching one that nearly brings tears to our eyes. More surprisingly, this lucky man of this wonderful dream is Jacob.
The hidden meanings of Bethel In this story, Jacob looks like a fugitive fleeing from someone. He had to run away because of the nasty things he had done to his family. In the previous chapter, we saw how he cheated his brother Esau to take his birthright. Then years later, he cheated him again, this time out of his father Isaac’s blessing by conspiring with his mother, Rebekah. Esau was so furious that he vowed to murder his brother. As parents, Isaac and Rebekah didn’t want their children to fight and kill each other. So, Isaac sent Jacob to his mother’s homeland until Esau cooled his anger. Worn out, Jacob fell asleep in a place where the name was unknown. As he slept, he dreamed a special dream: he saw a ladder set up on the earth, reaching all the way up into heaven. Angels were ascending and descending on it; and there, right beside him, was the Lord God himself, speaking to Jacob: “…the land on which you lie I will give to you and your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth… and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (vv. 13-15).
The point of Jacob’s dream is not that he climbed up to God, but that God descended from heaven to be with him. In terms of our Gospel language, the Lord was looking out for his lost sheep. Yet, I still wonder whether Jacob really deserved this amazing dream of God? As you see, he was at his lowest point; he had tricked, lied, and tried to steal his brother’s birthright; he even dared to deceive his blind father. All the things he had done were enough to prove that he didn’t deserve God’s blessing at all.
In addition, there is no single mention that Jacob was out looking for God’s help. He didn’t even pray to God before he fell into sleep. That is why he shouted when he awoke, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (v. 16). By this special dream, he was now confessing his faith in God for the first time in his life. Yet I am still disappointed to see how he responded to God about this special dream: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you” (vv. 2022).
What was he talking about? To sum it up he was saying “If you give me land, food, clothing, and protection, then I will be your man.” In other words, “show me the money and I will sign on it!” God, out of his unlimited love, offered Jacob abundant blessings, but Jacob said, “Prove it to me first!”
Let’s say that you are now encountering God just like Jacob. What would be your response? You will tremble and submit yourself to God. But look, what Jacob did. He was trying to negotiate a business deal with God more than he was demonstrating himself as a servant. He was still the same Jacob who tricked his brother and father.
Only this time he was trying to trick God by adding conditions of his own desire and lust. If you were God, could you count on this guy? I mean, could you still love and bless him? Anyway, he wanted to commemorate his divine dream, so he renamed the sacred place “Bethel,” which means “the house of God.” Interestingly enough, this place was not a holy temple but just an open wilderness where everyone could come and go and even animals could saunter by. It is amazing to know that our God of holiness came down on this very secular place to meet Jacob who was also far from holiness or righteousness.
I’d like to mention two important lessons about the God of Bethel whom Jacob met in his dream. First, this name, Bethel reminds us that God is everywhere with us. Wherever we go, whatever we do, and whomever we meet, God is always there with us. This is the good news for our life journey. As you know, life is full of uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen in the next moment. Today, I am here to serve you and I am so happy about it. But I don’t know where I will be a few years from now. But one thing that I know about my future life is that God is always with me wherever I go. In this regard, the God of Bethel gives us comfort and courage for our life journey in this world.
Second, Bethel reminds us about how we should behave in this world! Because God is everywhere, we should be careful of our words and deeds wherever we go. Whomever we meet on our streets or in our communities, we should respect them because God is with them. Wherever we go, whatever we do, and whomever we meet, we have to consider ourselves as servants because God is there as the Lord. “God is the Lord and we are servants” is the primary lesson that Jacob and we should learn from the meaning of Bethel.
In his divine dream, Jacob realized the first meaning of Bethel. That is, God is present everywhere in the world. Upon this faith, he could launch his journey into the strange world. But he didn’t get the second meaning of Bethel, which is, “we are servants of God wherever we go because God is everywhere we go.” In this moment of encountering God, Jacob received God’s grace but wasn’t yet ready to give himself to God.
We see ourselves through Jacob in this passage. Like him, we also believe wherever we go, whatever we do, whomever we meet, God will be there with us, which provides us with confidence in our life journey. But if we are honest, we still want to live for our own success rather than serve God and care for many others. We regard God as the God of blessings, but we don’t seriously regard ourselves as God’s servants. However, the good news in this story isn’t Jacob’s commitment. It’s God’s commitment. God is committed even to a trickster like Jacob. God will continue to discipline all his servants, step by step until they grow to be his mature servants.
Our gradual progress is the normal process of human growth. When infants learn how to walk, they start by toddling, then stagger, and finally run fast. Likewise, our spiritual growth is also inclined to proceed step by step in God’s grace. We call this spiritual progress “sanctification.” After many more steps on our faith journey, we can live a life dedicated to God, which is all about loving our neighbors, blessing all races and using our gifts and talents for the sake of others and our communities (you know what it is).
Step by step I know that all of you love God. But the Jacob in our heart still grabs at our heels. From time to time, we fall into temptation and abandon our call to serve God and people. But let’s not be disappointed at our weakness. The good news in this story about Jacob’s sanctifying journey is the promise of God’s guiding our steps through good and bad in our lives. In other words, God is there for us everywhere we go.
But we shouldn’t just sit still, believing God will do everything for us. We should also try our best to respond to God’s calling. How? We should keep in our hearts the truth that God is everywhere with us, so that we will consider ourselves as servants of God wherever we go and whomever we meet. Amen.
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/PZp3g-zE5ww
July 12, 2020 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Green) Genesis 25:19-34; Matthew 13:1-9
Called to Go on a Sanctifying Journey in God’s love
Grudge in Heart
Have you ever held a grudge against someone? Most of us probably have at one time or another. Maybe it was your own siblings when you were a little child. Probably you thought your parents adored them more; or it was your classmate who always got better grades than you; or it was your coworker who got lots of credit that you thought you also deserved.
Whatever it was, did you ever resolve that grudge? Or do you still struggle with it in your heart? The funny thing about a grudge: it is so heavy and painful to carry, but it is completely unaware that it exists. You can even pretend you are just fine with your soul. But if not resolved, this grudge may settle in your mind as a trauma and eventually endanger not only your life but also your family and many others around you.
In Christian terms, there is a saying “born again.” Perhaps this means that we are forgiven or healed or freed from the old infections like holding a grudge, jealousy, hatred, deceit, and much more, so that we can turn around, and begin to live a new life, and form a healthy relationship with people living around us. But if we still harbor resentment or animosity for someone, we will never live a blessed life and bless others’ lives as well. That is why Jesus emphasized the importance of reconciliation.
Here in our Old Testament passage, we see a man who had lived a very dramatic life. He started his life journey with a heart full of jealousy and competition (he only cared about his own success), but at the end of his life, he came to live a life of blessing to all the nations. (As he continued to grow in faith, his life journey can be likened to a journey of sanctification in our Christian term). His name is Jacob and we are familiar with the legacy he left in the OT.
Continue to grow in faith
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. While growing up, they had developed different personalities. Esau became a skillful hunter outside in the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying in tents with his mother. The Bible doesn’t judge which one is better or worse. With regard to their different characters, their parents responded to them in different ways: “Esau would take the meat of wild animals to his father Isaac, and so Isaac loved him more, but Jacob was his mother’s favorite son” (vv. 27-28). Their favoritism was the seed of their twin sons’ tragedy.
Besides, Jacob had an obvious reason to envy his twin brother. That is the birthright. Probably, Jacob had nurtured this jealousy since he knew that Esau, the firstborn, would inherit most of their father’s properties. In today’s passage, Jacob tricked Esau into buying his birthright only with a bowl of stew (vv. 31-33). Later, Rebekah coached Jacob into stealing the blessing that Isaac intended for Esau. Esau vowed to murder his brother for that, and Jacob had to run away (Gen. 27). Since then, the two brothers hadn’t had much contact for more than 20 years.
Jacob ran away to live among his mother Rebekah’s family. There he fell in love with his cousin, Rachel. He offered to work seven years for her father, Laban, in order to marry her. But Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah, Rachel’s sister, before he could marry Rachel. Jacob had to work another seven years to have Rachel as his wife. And favoritism showed up again: Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah” (Gen. 29:30) (his married life was never happy at all). Later it moved to the next generation. Jacob had 12 sons from Leah and Rachel but he loved Rachel’s son “Joseph more than any of his other sons” (Gen. 37:3). That is why the other sons sold Joseph to Egypt as a slave.
Isn’t this a mess? God’s people are supposed to show the great example of compassion. They are called to live for the blessing of others rather than for their own benefit. But what Jacob and his family cared about was how to live a life concerned with their own best interests. For that, they even hurt their own families. The name Jacob actually means “trickster” and he spent his life cheating many others. Indeed, he became richer than his brother at an old age. Was he happy with his success? No, he always lived an unhappy life due to the unresolved infections in his heart (grudge, jealousy, animosity, etc.).
However, we have to know the whole story if we want to know the truth of the story. This is not only Jacob’s story. This is a story about how God disciplines his servant. God intervened in Jacob’s life and he continued to lead and grew to be a man of faith. Wrestling with God on the Jabbok River, Jacob finally got a new name, Israel, and with his new name he moved to a new stage of life (Gen. 32) – from the life of Jacob the trickster, to the life of Israel, the fountain of blessings for all the nations. (In the next three Sundays, we will see how God disciplined Jacob, so that he could finally become a man of God).
Above, I liken Jacob’s life journey to a journey of sanctification in our Christian terms. We tend to believe that if we believe in Jesus, we receive God’s salvation right away. That’s it! But we should remember that Jesus not only gives his believers salvation, but also the commandments. Jesus wants to see how we love each other, how we serve others, how we witness and practice his teachings; and how we bear the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives. Otherwise, Jesus will say “I don’t know who you are” when we stand again in front of him. It is God’s will for us continue to grow in our faith and live a life of discipleship until we die. In this sense, the true meaning of salvation is the ongoing process of our sanctifying journey throughout our lives.
Christian sanctification is all about loving God and our neighbors. Indeed, we Christians, or God’s people are called to bless all the nations and all the races. In order to bless others, we must see all people as God’s children; we should consider others better than ourselves, so that we can serve them as their friends or their servants; we should be good at forgiving others and even loving and blessing our enemies. This life of blessing (or sanctification) is what Jesus showed us during his public ministry and this is the life he called his disciples to live. By God’s faithfulness
You and I are believers of Jesus Christ. Then, do we go on a journey of sanctification in our faith? In other words, do we love people around us? Do we live a life of blessing others? If we say we love God but despise others or ignore the people in need, we are only hypocrites. If we really love God, we should live a life of loving, serving, and blessing our neighbors.
Of course, we will not be able to reach the point of perfect sanctification throughout our life journey. Sometimes, we might want to live like Jacob who only cared about his own interests. We might have moments when we struggle with the old infections like grudges, animosity, or anger against others. But the truth is, the moment we accept Jesus, the main character of our lives is God, not ourselves. No wonder sanctification is hard. Yet God is always faithful. He will continue to lead us and help us go on our sanctifying journey.
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/usSPy2E-G0M
July 05, 2020 [Green]
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Freedom For Others
Celebration of freedom
This week, we celebrate the 4th of July – Independence Day – “Freedom” from the oppression of England! While celebrating this national holiday, we remember our forefathers, who didn’t have freedom, had to pay a terrible price in their revolutionary wars, so that we could become citizens of this land of freedom. Without their sacrifice and dedication, we wouldn’t be enjoying and celebrating our freedom today.
Once people had to fight for freedom. It’s now a word on everybody’s lips. Unfortunately, this word “freedom” is something that our forefathers never thought of. Today it means “Don’t tell me what I can do!” In these words, I can feel a strong sense of freedom for oneself but not a spirit of commitment to others.
There are specific times in our lives when we experience an expansive sense of freedom. One of the times that I remember is when I was entering college as a freshman. My parents and I drove to my dormitory to take my stuff in, and then I was watching my parents drive back home. Another time for me was when I received my driver’s license. Suddenly I felt free. I was no longer limited to walking or riding my bike. I felt like the whole world was mine alone. I had access to a car, and I could travel to wherever I wanted to go. The freedom that I experienced when I was young was about “I am free from my parents and their house rules!” I only thought of how I could enjoy my life, but I didn’t think about my duty for my parents or others.
“Don’t tell me what I can do.” You can say those words to your parents, your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Nobody has a right to tell you to do this and that. You have to shoulder your own life and yes, you can do whatever you want to do. But can you really say to God, “Don’t tell me what I can do?” Can you really say to God, “This is my life and I don’t need your help.” In some movies, we might see a man who looks at the sky and says, “Don’t tell me what I can do,” and then move on to take a risk or go on an adventure. This guy looks very heroic and even charming to us. But if we truly understand our Christian faith, we know how arrogant and foolish he is.
God’s divine gift
As you know, Christian faith begins with the confession that God is our Creator and we are his children; Jesus is the Savior and we owe him the gifts of God’s salvation and eternal life: “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:80). If we truly believe that salvation, (freedom or liberation) is God’s gift through Jesus Christ our Savior, how can we say to God, “Don’t tell me what I can do,” instead of “Tell me, Lord, what I can do for you.”
Yes, it is true that you have freedom to choose things you like. You have the freedom to do whatever satisfies your desires. But you also have the freedom to dedicate your life to others. We know that the latter is better than the former, but it (dedication) is hard to choose and practice because it is against our selfish nature . But we know the life of dedication is the true freedom that Jesus wants us to have if we want to be his disciples.
In today’s text from Romans, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that true freedom (life of dedication) is only found in Jesus Christ. Once he confessed that he was a slave of his own evil nature: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (v. 23). In his desperation Paul sounds unable to do any more to free himself from his own sinful and selfish nature, so he cries out “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v. 24) Then immediately he sounds the trumpet of victory, by saying “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (v. 25a). Paul reveals the good news that Jesus Christ sets us free from our own sinful and selfish nature, so that we may live a new life of dedication.
For Paul, true freedom was a divine gift that God offered through Jesus Christ our Savior. This gift of freedom makes us live the life of Jesus Christ our Savior. In this gift of freedom, we are willing to see all people as equal in God’s eyes; we are willing to respect and honor their dignity, regardless of who they are and what they do; we are willing to build up our communities, so that not only we, but many others can live well and thrive together.
This freedom of dedication is what Paul celebrates in this text. And it could be the freedom we celebrate as we commemorate this Independence Day. The freedom we enjoy today is due to someone’s sacrifice and dedication. Think about this. If everybody lives only for their own selfish desires, saying “Don’t tell me what I can do,” we know that we might all fail in the end. If we want to live well together, we know we have to live for others, saying “What can I do for you?”
Here is what we Christians are called to do. When others shout “Don’t tell me what I can do!” we should say “Tell me, friends, what can I do for you?” Only in this dedicated life, we can make our world better and help many people rejoice in their lives. And let us remember we can live this life of freedom, salvation, and dedication only when we submit our hearts to Jesus Christ our Savior.
Come to Jesus
In my closing comment, let me read Jesus’ words of invitation to all of us in Matthew’s Gospel: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Let us come to God through Jesus, so that we may receive the gift of freedom in our souls. And then, let us also take on the yoke of discipleship and learn from Jesus, so that we may be gentle, and humble in heart enough to serve people and bring love, peace, and joy to many others, which is called God’s kingdom. Amen.
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/vXgGIpESm48
June 28, 2020 Ordinary Time/Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Green) Genesis 22:1-14; Matthew 10:40-42
Making a meaningful life
Our culture vs. Jesus’ teaching
“What kind of life do you want to have?” This kind of question is so abstract that it’s actually hard to answer. Maybe our answer is also abstract, such as “I want to have a good life.” Then, what do you think a good life is? That question is hard to answer, but you might think of a life of well-being in many different ways. Perhaps you may think of a living a respected life in society. In fact, who would ever want to live a shabby life? Our culture of today teaches us that satisfying our desires or putting our own interests first is more important than everything else. That’s why we have an abundance of everything: we have so much food that we are afraid our eating habits will make us fat: we have so many clothes that even resale shops can’t take them: we have so many things that we don’t want to move to another apartment. The saddest thing is that most people in this highly capitalistic country just believe this kind of egoism. In other words, having what we desire is evidence of a happy and successful life. Then, what is this meaningful life that Jesus offers us? If we really consider ourselves as his disciples, we should live by his teachings. No matter what our philosophy may be, our Lord Jesus’ teaching in the Bible has never changed and never will be. That is, we must stop living for ourselves and live for others if we really want to be his disciples. At the Last Supper before he was arrested, Jesus clearly told his disciples, “If you want to be my disciples, you must wash others’ feet, as I did to you.” Throughout this symbolic lesson, Jesus taught us that it is in this giving and serving life to others that we can make a meaningful life.
The spirit that transcends all things in the world
In the Old Testament, we can see Jesus’ teaching through a man who pleased God by giving his own life. This man is Abraham, who is well-known as the forefather of faith. But the problem is, we don’t like today’s scripture: God tested Abraham by telling him to kill his child like a beast and bring it to him as a sacrifice. Perhaps this passage is the most horrific event in the entire Bible. If we take it literally, we can hardly say “This is the word of God for the people of God.” We must find the hidden message that this passage is trying to teach in terms of God’s word for the people of God. We need to see the cultural background in this passage. Abraham’s time is referred to as the patriarchal age. The greatest concern of the ancient Hebrews was fertility, in other words, having lots of children (They believed fertility was God’s will for all his creatures – “Be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis Chapter 1). Actually, it was the very popular idea not only to the Hebrews but also to all the ancient races. Why did the ancient people regard having many children as living a successful life, a happy life, and a life blessed by God (or gods)? In short, it is only because having many children provided an advantage to survival in their jungle-like-world. But Abraham belonged to God. He had faith in God. He didn’t simply live according to the culture of his day, but tried to live by God’s will. That is why he gave up so many things from his homeland and moved to the unknown world as he followed God’s calling. Now at the old age of one hundred years, he had a son Isaac because of his faith in God. But Abraham dared to give up even his own child just to obey God’s command. I know this is an unreasonable and inhuman story. How can we enjoy the concept of sacrificing one’s own child? But once again, we should find the hidden message in it whether we like this story or not. From Abraham’s resolute determination, I can see a spirit that is transcendental or progressive not only to this ancient custom but also to our age of materialism. Think about this: God is invisible, but Abraham’s son Isaac is something he could see right in front of his eyes. To the ancient people, children were a symbol of good fortune. Everyone would try to have more children. But Abraham dared to give up his own child just to please God, who is invisible. Let me put it this way. Can you see God’s kingdom? Can you see eternal life? Can you see faith, hope, and love? Can you see justice, equality, freedom, peace? These kinds of ideas are invisible, but we know they exist in our world just as our invisible God exists in our lives. And we also know those invisible ideas are much more valuable than something we can see in our everyday lives such as money, food, a home, our family, our business, our own bodies. [In the New Testament, the disciple Paul says that “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18)]. In this ancient time when everybody pursued material blessings like fertility, Abraham realized that something invisible was far more precious and valuable than something visible. (In terms of our Christian language, he knew people should live by God’s word, not only by bread.) If he chose to keep his own son, he would be considered a good father. But Abraham decided to give up everything (his son) and entrust his life to the invisible God. That is why he became the forefather of our faith and Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world was born in Abraham’s family line. His choice for the invisible brought salvation to the world, changed the history of the world, and left a more valuable heritage to all generations. But we should know that Abraham’s decision wasn’t easy. We know that this was only God’s test, but he didn’t know that. How painful it must have been when he was asked by God to sacrifice his own child? Like Abraham’s experience, we are sometimes given a moment of choice. If God also tested us today, like Abraham, would we have the courage and faith to give up all these material things that satisfy our desires just for their invisible value? It’s easy to say that justice, equality, or freedom are very important values for all humanity, but just like Abraham, are we really willing to give up or sacrifice our own Isaac, our pleasure, our interest, our properties, or our gifts and dedicate our lives to those invisible values? Let me put it this way. You know we Christians are called to follow Jesus Christ, practice his teachings, and carry on his ministry throughout the world. But if we are really called to support and stand for those who are invisible, voiceless, nameless, and powerless in our communities, are we also willing to give up our own favors and benefits for those? Just like Abraham, do we have the courage and faith to transcend our desires? If we are honest, this ancient story of Abraham’s faith is still radical, progressive, and transcendental to us today.
The Instruction of Jesus Christ
Loving God, more than we love ourselves, more than we love our children or family, and more than we love what we have is not a simple task. It challenges us sometimes to give up our treasures and even our lives. But we should know that when we obey this invisible God and stand for the unseen values like justice, equality, freedom, peace, and serve those who are powerless in our world, we can bring God’s salvation and change history. We can pass on a better world to our descendants. How do we make a blessed life in our journey of faith? It is not about ourselves. It is about our Lord; it is about other people; and it is about something invisible. Jesus Christ’s new commandment is “Love your God and love your neighbors.” He also says, “If you love one another, people will know that you are my disciples.” Loving others, serving others, living for others are ways we can prove we are true disciples of Christ, and it is the way we can manifest the image of God. Our deeds of love, compassion, and mercy are our ways of doing the work of God and following the way of Christ. Amen.
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
Third Sunday After Pentecost
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.
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.
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
Second Sunday After Pentecost
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.
Please join us for our June 7th Worship Service! You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link https://youtu.be/8xCYvqyGk6o
June 7, 2020 [White]
Trinity Sunday (First Sunday After Pentecost)
2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
The Fellowship of Trinity
Fellowship and worship
Surprise! You and I are invited to our brother Nat Woodruff’s garden. I know you had a big smile when you saw Nat’s face at the beginning of our service. Over the past weeks, we have shown you different locations of our church to help you feel connected. But how can we bring you a sense of “connection” with our church family through our online worship service? This is one of the questions the worship team has been working on. We thought of the interesting idea of having a service at someone’s garden as a sign of our connection or fellowship with one another. Thankfully, our brother Nat was there to accept our suggestion, so we are welcomed and greeted by him this morning. I hope this service will bring you a valuable opportunity to deepen your love and care for one another.
Following our Christian calendar, today is the first Sunday after Pentecost, which is also called “Trinity Sunday.” So, I am supposed to talk about what the Trinity is all about. “Well, on this joyful Sunday morning in Nat’s beautiful garden, do you really want to talk about Trinity?” You may want to argue since you know this is a serious subject. “Why don’t you just talk about fellowship to provide some fun with this service?” I know this is probably your suggestion for this morning. In fact, we designed this service at Nat’s garden to bring the spirit of fellowship into your hearts. So regardless of our Christian calendar, I will go with our plan about fellowship in my sermon.
Actually, Christian worship is all about fellowship with God and one another. God doesn’t sit on the heavenly throne but always joins in our gatherings because fellowship is the very nature of God. How do I know this? I’d like to point to the Trinity! Basically, the concept of Trinity is all about fellowship. I tried to ignore the subject of the Trinity, but now have come back to it. Perhaps, this is the right time and place to talk about the Trinity as I planned to talk about fellowship in today’s service.
Fellowship and Trinity
Why is the Trinity all about fellowship? Look at this triangle (showing the slide) in which each of the divine Persons are connected to one other. This triangle is not about hierarchy in which somebody is on the top and the others are on the bottom. Rather, this form is much more concerned about connection, harmony, equality, respect, and mutual relationships. Throughout this triangle form, we can see our God of Trinity desires to share fellowship.
“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Whether you like it or not, this is what we call God of Trinity. If you take this traditional language literally, you will fall into a bias (like male superiority) because God is pictured as Father and Son. Unfortunately, some Christians really believe that men must be in charge and women have to support them because God is the Father. If you go further with this literal understating of God, maybe you would say that racism is God’s will (I am better and higher, so I have the right to rule you, choke you, kill you. This is a very dangerous mindset that can cause divisions and conflicts in our society). If God has favoritism with men, some classes, and some races, how can we believe God loves the whole world; God stands for the socially weak; God is the Savior of all? This Trinity, which implies mutual and harmonious relationships, is not suitable for God’s nature. We have to throw it away and find another symbol.
We know human language is not perfect. It’s only a tool to express our thoughts, ideas, and emotions. God is much bigger than our language and our mindset. So let’s take into account that this terminology of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is only a matter of language and then meditate on what this Trinity presents to us. Let me give you my understanding about Trinity: God is like the Father or Mother, who gives life to all things in the universe: God is like the Son who is incarnated (born) into our world and our lives – “God-with-us”; God is also the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts, leading us, strengthening us, and turning on the lights for us, and so we can call God “Abba,” “Shepherd,” “Savior,” or “Friend.”
No Christian scholars have logically explained the possibility of Trinity – God exists in three distinct Persons but still the same one God? Maybe our doctrine of Trinity should be taken emotionally rather than logically. I hope you to feel God’s friendly intimacy every time you ponder on this meaning of the Trinity. Once again Trinity is not about authority or hierarchy but about connection, harmony, equality, respect, and relationships. It is all about fellowship.
Sharing the fellowship with all races
I can feel a kind of genuine and divine fellowship when I gather with you as a family in God. Look, my relationship with Nat (or any of you). Nat and I don’t have many things to share in our lives. He is white and I am so-called yellow; he is tall and I am small; he is 50 years old (plus alpha) and I am 20 years old (plus alpha). Our growth backgrounds and cultural environments are different from one other. No matter how I look and who I am, Nat is happy to invite me and all of you into his garden and willing to worship together with us because he has the fellowship of God in his heart.
Who is better? Who is higher? Who is in power? Who is the insider and who is the outsider? Who deserves honor and who deserves punishment? Don’t you know those questions had never been in Jesus’ relationship with his people? Yes, indeed, Jesus Christ our Lord commands his disciples to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19). So, as we are his people, do we have the right to judge, correct, fight against others who don’t belong to us or who are different from us? We must not take this command as a military-like-mission. In the following words, Jesus gives his disciples his promise that “I am with you always” (v. 20). Don’t you feel in this promise his intimacy, his fellowship, his compassion and mercy, and his eternal and abundant love for us? Certainly, Jesus also wants us to share this peaceful and loving relationship with people living around us.
Trinity is about a God of fellowship. Does God only choose a certain group of people for his fellowship? No, God always invites and reaches out to all kinds of people to offer his fellowship. Who are our neighbors? How do they look? What do they do for their living? What kind of culture do they have? Whatever it is, let us share our genuine and divine fellowship as we honor, respect, and bless them. Amen.