May 31st Worship Service & Sermon: “The Vitality of the Holy Spirit”

Please join us for our May 24th Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link https://youtu.be/BS3Wksq-Ovs

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 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.
—————————————————————————————————————–

May 31, 2020 [Red]
Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-4, 14-21; John 7:37-39

The Vitality of the Holy Spirit

The vital force in creation

Today is Pentecost Sunday. It is the day when the first disciples received the Holy Spirit in their gatherings and started their faith community, which we now call “Church.” When we think about the Holy Spirit, we may be reminded of a lively image like fire, wind, a dove, water, or tongues. Yes, Pentecost is something about a power, energy, force, or vitality that makes us stretch our bodies, or shout joyfully, move forward, or renew and strengthen our lives and ministry.

I can feel this kind of power or vitality when I walk in my yard. Look, it is now full of green color and full of life. Here in my vegetable garden bed, are there the buds of life growing. Two weeks ago, I planted some seedlings and lettuce, pepper, tomato, and zucchini seeds. A few days ago when I went out to give them water, I saw some green shoots coming up out of the ground. I am already looking forward to how much I can reap from my garden.

If you ask what is the most amazing thing in nature, I’d like to answer it is the growth of life. Look at those tiny seeds. I can’t understand, and nobody can fully explain how they really grow into plants, flowers, or huge trees that are heavily laden with fruit. As I think of this mystery of life, I am just reminded of God’s words in Genesis: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

What makes a tiny seed grow into a huge tree and bear lots of fruit? What makes a little baby get bigger and bigger every day? What makes all living creatures instinctively desire to survive and reproduce? I don’t know the right answer, but based on the Bible, I can say when God created all the creatures, he put a power, or force, or a spirit in their bodies that play a vital role in growth and development. That’s why the entire universe is always throbbing with life.  And this throbbing keeps on going as long as life lasts.

The power of the Holy Spirit

But then we may wonder why we need the Holy Spirit. All creatures already have a spirit in their bodies, that they are willing to survive, grow, bear fruit, and make good lives. So why do we need the Holy Spirit? Let me give you a better question to think about – “How is the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to his people different from the general spirit of life that God already put in all his creatures?” The answer is in the story of Acts we read this morning.

Following Jesus’ commandment, the disciples were all together in one place, and then 10 days later after Jesus ascended to heaven, they finally received the Holy Spirit pouring out into their hearts. How did they react? They began to speak in foreign languages they had never learned before. Peter and his fellow disciples addressed the crowds coming from all over the world. According to the end of this story, about 3,000 people, who heard his sermon, were converted to be Christians on that day. If you continue to read in chapter 3, they also showed an amazing healing power to raise a man crippled from birth, who was  begging at the gate of the Jerusalem Temple.

What a wonderful power it is! This supernatural event is called Pentecost. But I don’t want to take your attention from this kind of miracle which happened to the first disciples of the first century. I don’t believe that this miracle is the main point of Pentecost. Instead, I want you to see what kind of change took place in their hearts when they received the Holy Spirit.

Look at Peter. When Jesus was arrested, he was so afraid that he denied Jesus three times in front of people. What about John? He was hiding in a group of women when Jesus was crucified. Mary Magdalene? She was weeping and grieving at Jesus’ tomb. Thomas was even doubtful when he heard the resurrection of Jesus.

Before they received the Holy Spirit, they were very ordinary people who only reacted to their environment for their own survival. They were selfish, fragile, and somehow disloyal, but we don’t want to blame them because we know that self-preservation is  human nature. Just like anyone of us, they also reacted according to their own instinct for survival.

But, when they were set on fire (the Holy Spirit), they were radically changed to new people. No longer were they afraid of the persecution or challenge from the world. No longer were they hiding away from trouble. Now, they were bold enough to come out to speak publicly in front of the crowds that Jesus rose from the dead and he is indeed the Messiah.

Do you see the differences of how they reacted before and after they received the Holy Spirit? Before they received the Holy Spirit, they were concerned about how to manage their own security and survive in their time of trial. But after they received the Holy Spirit, it seems like they were willing to get into their communities to serve and care for others as they witnessed to the Gospel of Jesus and carried on his salvation ministry.

All creatures have a vital instinct for their own survival. That’s why all the creatures have to eat when they are hungry; they need to sleep or go on vacation after they work hard; and they look out for their own safety when they are in trouble. Nothing wrong with it! Survival is God’s will for all living creatures.

But we Christians have one more spirit in our hearts, which is the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ gives his disciples. Here in our Scripture, we see by the power of the Holy Spirit the disciples stand as the witnesses of Jesus Christ. It means that they finally sought something more  valuable for others and the whole community than for their own interests. It is the Holy Spirit that has transformed us to seek God’s righteousness and work for God’s kingdom here in this troubled and broken world, so that we can lead many lives into God’s salvation and make our world move forward.

Stand up for life

Here in my vegetable garden bed are there the buds of life growing. I know they will continue to grow as long as there is sun and rain. But I also know I have to take care of them every day if I really want to have a good harvest. Here in our communities there are  so many neighbors living for their own survival. But we also know we can live well with everyone and make our world a lot better when we live for others.

What can we do in these trying times? Maybe the survival instinct we have in our hearts continues to say we need to stay home, stay away from all the crowds, and even close the doors. As God’s people, however, you may also struggle with a thought that you have to do something for others in the name of Jesus. That is the voice of the Holy Spirit that is in your heart as well. What can we do? If we are willing, we can see there are so many things we can do in the name of Jesus Christ. In these trying times and in this season of Pentecost, let us renew and empower our lives and ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May 24th Worship Service & Sermon: “Why Did Jesus Leave?”

Please join us for our May 24th Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link  https://youtu.be/eW5VqWp80c4

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 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.
—————————————————————————————————————–

May 24, 2020

The Day of Ascension

Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

Why Did Jesus Leave?

Is this the time?

What a beautiful season we have enjoyed these days! The weather is getting warmer, the days are lengthening, the sky is a dazzling blue, the air is fresh, and our yards are a shiny green. We are surrounded by all sorts of signs pointing to the beginning of summer, and I am sure that we all have been looking forward to this seasonal change.

As we are now in this beautiful season, we may have high hopes of our new life. We have been stuck and frozen almost for three months under the grip of this pandemic. This is the time we can get out of its clutches. So we want to ask God, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore our country, our state, our business, our stock market, and most of all, our freedom to move and hang around as we want?”

Against our earnest wishes, however, we are actually being told that this year’s winter will be the worst winter in our history. This means it’s not yet the time for us to come back and restore our lives. It would be such a shame to have to continue to stay locked up in this beautiful season. We must not succumb to this pandemic. We must do something to overcome this crisis and bring hope of life in our world. What can we do as God’s people?

On Ascension Day

Liturgically, this is the Ascension Sunday when Jesus was taken up into heaven in front of his disciples’ eyes. Before he ascended to heaven, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6) They had been longing for freedom and liberation from the long oppression of the Roman Empire. Now they had Jesus Christ who rose from the dead. His own resurrection proved he had the power to fulfill their wishes. But Jesus’ answer was somewhat disappointing because he replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority” (v. 7).

By the way, how did the disciples react to the sudden ascension of Jesus in front of their eyes? Were they shocked, frustrated, confused, or thrilled? Whatever it was, I can picture them on that hillside, their bodies frozen, their mouths open, staring into the cloud that had swallowed Jesus from their sight. I can also hear some of them saying, still staring to the sky, “Why did he leave us?”

I can’t blame the disciples. In fact, I sometimes think, as they probably did, “Wouldn’t it be better if Jesus were still here with his people for his own mission. As their Lord, he could guide and lead them to do things right. Who would dare to compete with his power when he spoke, fought, or healed the sick? Why did he have to leave?

“Why do you have to leave?” This is actually what my mom grumbled when I had to board the plane at the airport. I am old enough to feel how upset she was when I had to depart from her. She didn’t want me to leave because as her son, I am her everything. I also believe that she would have a better life if I was always with her in her house. But I had to leave her because I have much bigger world to serve. But that doesn’t mean I abandoned her. I can always come back to her or invite her in my world, which is a lot bigger and better than her little house.

Not only adults like us but little children also know how hard it is to break up with their parents. “Why are you leaving me?” A little child would complain with this kind of question when his/her daddy is heading out the door. Daddy usually tells his child that he has to leave for work and will return soon. Yet the child doesn’t want him to leave because he/she just wants to play with him at their home. But daddy has to leave because he has a bigger community to serve. That doesn’t mean daddy is abandoning his child. He has to leave, so that he can not only do his job but also nurture and feed his child. Unfortunately, the child is too little to understand why daddy has to go.

In a way, the disciples were just like little children.  They didn’t understand why their Lord Jesus had to leave. They wanted him to stay with them in their small world. Holding him, they focused only on their own little hope about restoring their kingdom. But Jesus had a much bigger vision and for that he had to leave. He had to leave for the sake of the whole world. But that doesn’t mean he abandoned his disciples. The disciples would be invited to Jesus’ world (Kingdom of God).

There are differences in how little children and how the disciples react to their being left alone. Little children stay home, doing nothing until their daddy comes back. But Jesus’ disciples were called to do something until he would come back to them. Jesus gave them a special mission to be his witnesses: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 9). For this mission, Jesus promised to send his people the Holy Spirit. By ascending, Jesus has been working in heaven, and by receiving the Holy Spirit his disciples have been working here in our world.

Yet I can see some similarities about their reactions too. Both of them (children and disciples) are still not mature enough to understand why their daddy and their Lord Jesus had to leave. The little children are so upset that their daddy is leaving; they are so resistant, cry for a while, and then fall asleep. Likewise, the disciples got caught just standing there for a moment when Jesus ascended to heaven. They were frustrated, confused, or thrilled, and so they just stood there like statues. It took a visit from an angel to shake them out of their stupor. Basically, the angel shouted to them “Don’t just stand there and stare into heaven; look around and do something!”

Call to witness to God’s grace and love

For my conclusion, let me give you an illustration about squirrels. They are cute little animals. Yet I believe some of them are not very smart. I often see them crossing the street in front of a car. Some squirrels hurry across and get out of the way. But some squirrels stop there in the road and just watch the car coming as they hold their hands in front of their heart. Do they ask the driver to stop the car or turn his/her steering wheel? Whatever it is, those squirrels just stand there watching, doing nothing, and eventually being killed by a moving car.

On Ascension Sunday 2,000 years ago, the first disciples asked Jesus, ““Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6). On this beautiful season today, we want to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore our country, our state, our business, our stock market and most of all, our freedom to move and hang around as we want?” Yet it seems like Jesus is replying, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority” (v. 7).

How would you like to respond? Just like those dummy squirrels, will you get stuck or frozen and just stand there watching and doing nothing? Or will you look around, step forward, take action, and witness to God’s grace and love? We know sometimes things don’t go as we wish, but that doesn’t mean Jesus had abandoned us. Rather, we should know that he has a much bigger vision for us and for the world and he is always with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to hold onto our small hope or small world as we only stand and watch. We are called to work for our Lord as we witness to his ministry and vision of God’s kingdom. Amen.

May 17th Worship Service & Sermon: “The Abiding Spirit of Truth”

Please join us for our May17th Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link https://youtu.be/f_5_EGPaYoM

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 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.
—————————————————————————————————————–

May 17, 2020 [White]
Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14:15-21

The Abiding Spirit of Truth

The Video Call

It is always hard to say goodbye to our beloved ones. Afterward, our life is harder because we really miss their physical presence in our lives. I still remember how hard it was when I had to leave my mom behind in Korea. When I said goodbye to her at the airport, she burst into tears. Before I boarded the plane, I needed to comfort her, so I gave her my promise: the promise to come again to see her on my next vacation or invite her back whenever she feels ready to come. (As you know, she had to go back to her country because of her need for medical care). As I made my promise to her, we both knew we would meet again, either in my mom’s country or here in mine.

But still my concern is, “How can I help her endure the loneliness and help her manage until we meet again?” After much thought, I purchased a smartphone for her and set it up so we could have video calls. She and I can call each day, looking at each other’s face. I even can show her granddaughter, (Mimi, my cat) and all the flowers she had taken care of. When I called her from my church office, I showed her the Easter lilies in our sanctuary and she was so happy about it. One day she told me that these video calls make her feel like I am with her at her house. I can definitely say that this helps us connect with each other and brings lots of confidence into her life, and I believe this device will keep her stay strong until we meet again.

The promise of the Holy Spirit

In chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, we can see the farewell scenes between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus said goodbye to them and they were very upset with his sudden farewell. For three years they had shared their lives together. Because Jesus knew they were broken-hearted, he tried to comfort them as he gave them two essential promises before he left them behind.

Last Sunday we read about his first promise: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also (v. 3). It is just like my promise to my mom: “I will come again to see you soon.” (Well actually, it is the promise about his own resurrection and eternal life for his followers).

But it wasn’t good enough to comfort their troubled hearts. They might have believed he would come back someday as he promised, but they were still wondering how they could stay calm and face all the challenges of life without his daily presence. Jesus also knew that they couldn’t make it on their own, and he didn’t want to abandon them like a bunch of orphans. So, he gave them his second promise: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever” (v. 16). (“Advocate” can be translated as “counselor,” “comforter,” “intercessor,” and “strengthener”). This promised Advocate is the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, they’d be able to feel Jesus’ presence in their lives. I liken the task of the Holy Spirit to the video call on my mom’s cellphone in the sense that both bring us a feeling of connection and confidence in life.

Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit holds immense comfort. Without God’s abiding help in our daily lives, we too can’t stay calm and strong. If we have to do everything with our own strength, we will soon find ourselves very discouraged and even give up. As little children of God, we need the Holy Spirit who can guide our faith journey in this complicated and uncertain world.

What if we fail? What if we get lost? What if we lose everything we need to sustain our lives? Those are the actual worries we may struggle with, especially in this time of uncertainty. For these possible worries in our hearts, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth” (v. 17). Because He is the Spirit of Truth and if we trust and obey, the Spirit will lead us all the way to be with God!

Through the Holy Spirit guiding us each day, we will not only experience God’s presence in our own lives, but we will also be able to show his presence to others. Jesus has given his followers the Holy Spirit with an important caveat: “If you love me, keep my commands.” As we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we must display the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

How can we know Jesus will come again? How can we know he will send us the Holy Spirit? How can we know the Spirit will lead us to the way we should go? The only answer for this question is “trust and obey.” Indeed, our Lord Jesus kept his own promises to his disciples. First, he kept his promise of coming back to them. He walked out of the tomb. He rose from the dead, having defeated death. Jesus’ resurrection secures our place in the family of God. Second, he kept his promise to send the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they could live powerful lives, witnessing about Jesus’ resurrection to all nations. What was true of the disciples is also true of you and me today. We have to trust in his promises that he will be always with us and obey his holy guidance that we will strive to make a faithful and godly life.

Trust and obey

Often in life, there is a stark contrast between the resurrection in heaven and the actual trials in the world. We see it in the threatening of this pandemic, which is out of our control, in a fractured economy in which many of us have even lost jobs, in the loss of a beloved one that has discouraged hope and joy in our life, in the struggles with our own health issues, that we just want to give up on life.

In the midst of this troubled life and this uncertain world, we feel like we have been abandoned like orphans. If this is our feeling of today, let us listen to what Jesus says to his disciples “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you as I send you the Spirit of the Truth” (vv. 16-18). This is what Jesus promises his disciples and us today and we know he will keep his promise. All we have to do is to trust and obey! Amen!

Mother’s Day Worship Service & Sermon: “God’s Love on Mother’s Day”

Please join us for our Mother’s Day Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link:https://youtu.be/MbxWhw7XZbE

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 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.
—————————————————————————————————————–

May 10, 2020 [White]
Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 14:1-14

God’s Love on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day (giving this part in the kitchen)

Happy Mother’s Day!!! As you can see, I am standing in the kitchen, wearing my mom’s apron. Please, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying or even thinking that the kitchen is where mothers must be placed. No, not at all! Women and men must be equal everywhere in our society! I am only showing this to remember and honor my mom who has never stopped feeding me and caring for my life.

When I called my mom last night to say “thanks,” she replied (she never forgets to ask this when I call her), “Son, did you eat? What are you eating these days?” On Mother’s Day, my mom still wonders whether I eat or not. And I believe this is also your concern about your children.

“It was good when I was a child!” Don’t you say or think these words when you are in trouble or worrying about something? Yes, I can really say that everything was good when I was a little kid; I had never been hungry, I had never been lonely, I had never been desperate for anything. Was it because my parents were rich? No! Remember, once I talked about my parents’ failure in their business. I knew they were in great trouble, but I still grew up rich because they sacrificed everything to take care of me!

If someone asks me where we can experience God’s love, I’d like to say that we can always experience it from our mothers’ love. Mothers are special people who provide unconditional love for their children. They will even lay down their lives for their children just as Jesus laid down his life for his people. On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to bow down and thank my mom and all our mothers for their sublime love.

The love of God the Father or Mother (giving this part in the garden)

As I sit in our memorial garden, I am reminded of what Jesus says to his people, “[God grows the flowers and grasses of the field. Without God’s command, none of the sparrows will fall to the ground. So do not fear; you are much more precious than many sparrows]” (Mt. 6:30; Mt. 10:29-31). Do those words mean that God is so rich and powerful, that we will never have any trouble? No. What Jesus means is that God, our Father or Mother will protect us and take good care of us with abundant love.

Although God is in control, trouble is a reality in our world and the Bible doesn’t ignore it. Open any page in the Bible and you will see a story of some kind of trouble. Even here in this place with Jesus and his disciples there had been trouble. Jesus knew he would soon be betrayed and killed by the Jews. He also knew his disciples would be in trouble because of him. Actually, we don’t need to read the Bible or look far to find trouble. Our life experience has already taught us that no one can get through life without suffering or pain. We also know if our trouble seems so deep, it’s hard to have hope of life.

If this is your situation today, take Jesus’ words for this morning deep into your hearts. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (v. 1). Please notice that Jesus never says that we should ignore trouble, but he wanted to provide comfort with clear instructions: “Trust God and Trust me.” And “Trust God the Father or Mother who holds your life, and Trust Jesus who has given his life for us (to prepare a place for you – the eternity in God’s house)” (v. 2).

He also says these remarkable words, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (v. 6). Some Christians take this verse literally believing it to be exclusive to any other religion or culture. Let us not judge with our classic doctrine, but take it as his own promise to protect his disciples from trouble.

So let me put it this way: “I am the Way” – even though you happen to encounter trouble, don’t worry but trust me. I will always guide you. “I am the Truth” – even though you happen to get lost, don’t worry but trust me. I will always find you. “I am the Life” – even though you happen to be discouraged, don’t worry but trust me; I will always work with you and help you to restore hope in your life.

Amazingly, Jesus gave this promise when he was in trouble. He knew he was about to be killed. Nevertheless, he was completely concerned about his people. And we know he laid down his own life for the sake of our salvation. On this Mother’s Day, let us bow down and give thanks to Jesus Christ who is our Way, Truth, and Life

On Mother’s Day (speaking this part in the sanctuary)

I am back in our sanctuary to continue our worship with you. When I sat in our garden, I was thinking to myself that it’s OK to be spoiled (in a good way) because God loves me so much that he will always watch over me. But as I now enter our sanctuary, I am reminded that I am not only a child of God, but also a servant to God, and I feel like I have to do something for others in terms of a Christ-given ministry. Indeed, Jesus says in this passage, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these” (v. 12). On this Mother’s Day, let us deepen our faith in Jesus Christ and strive to take action as his disciples.

On this Mother’s Day, let us bow down and give thanks to all our mothers (and also fathers) who brought us into this world and have taken care of our lives. On this Mother’s Day, let us also bow down and give thanks to God who has created us, saved us, and sustained our lives with abundant love. On this Mother’s Day, let us also love each other and serve others in God’s love just as Jesus Christ our Lord has loved. Amen.

May 3rd Worship Service & Sermon: “Abide in the Vine”

Please join us for our May 3rd Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/pGozvF2FF8Y

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 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.
—————————————————————————————————————–

May 03, 2020 [White]
Fourth Sunday of Easter
John 15:1-8

 Abide in the Vine

AC and BC

A few weeks ago, I had an on-line meeting with some pastor colleagues. One of my friends shared with us a quite funny, but serious comment about the coronavirus: Until recently, the history of the world was divided into BC and AD. “BC” means “Before Christ”; “AD” means “After Domini” (Domini is Jesus the Lord). So, the birth of Jesus became the turning point between BC and AD. But now our history will be divided into “BC” and “AC.” “BC” means “Before coronavirus” and “AC” means “After coronavirus.” The coronavirus will become a turning point in our history. We all laughed at his remarks at first, but when he continued to ask how this coronavirus would affect our Christian worship and ministry, we couldn’t laugh anymore. (I actually mentioned this question in my weekly letter last week: “Even if  we were able to come back, could we worship and share fellowship as we used to? Well, nothing is clear right now.”)

In this transitional time in history, I want to think along with you of what it means to be a Christian. We need to clarify our Christian identity. When we know who we are and what we are called to do, we can better respond to all the changes or challenges from whatever happens in our history. In other words, when we stand strong on our foundation (Christian identity), we can jump better! So, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

The Vine and the branches

To answer this question, I can hear Jesus saying in his parable from today’s gospel lesson, “I am the true vine and you are the branches” (v. 5). This image is so profound yet very realistic in that the vine and the branches must be always connected to each other. If separated, the branches cannot survive.

This is a perfect metaphor to describe our Christian identity or our relationship with Jesus Christ. Basically, it tells us that Christians are the ones who must live in unity with Jesus Christ. Yet it suggests not just a spiritual but also bodily connection to Jesus Christ. How can we do this since Jesus is now a spiritual being? You know, the community of faith is known as the body of Christ. So when we faithfully belong to the church, we can abide in Jesus Christ.

Based on this metaphor, let us think about how we should respond to all the challenges and changes that this coronavirus will bring to our worship and ministry. Whatever it may be, I can hear Jesus speaking to us like this: “You can do things differently. You can continue to worship me through an on-line service, or whatever technology, and I will be there for you. But don’t forget, I am the true vine and you are my branches. If you want to stay safe and well, don’t try to make it on your own; don’t renounce your relationship with me. There is nothing you can do without a country, without a community, without a source of life.  That is me, the true vine.”

In his sermon, Jesus mentioned that he abided in God the Father in heaven. That’s why he could stay bold enough to take all risks in his ministry and even take the suffering of the cross. He also knew that his disciples would face trials later because of him. That’s why he told them, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Abide in me.” When the branches are tightly attached to the vine, they can endure the storms without withering and dying. Likewise, when we tightly cling to Jesus Christ (or God), we can endure every kind of disaster and eventually get through it.

Yet the branches are not just attached to the vine for survival. They have a special mission.  They are stuck to the vine and supposed to bear fruit. In his parable, Jesus continues to say, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (v. 5). Then, what kind of fruit? In a word, it is “love.” No one expects to have apples from the vine. Just like the vine bears grapes, we are supposed to bear the fruit of love because the Jesus Christ we cling to is all about love.

But before we talk about love in our ministry, we shouldn’t miss the main point of this parable, which is our (bodily) connection to Jesus Christ. Our Christian life first begins with abiding in Jesus (abiding in the community of faith), so we can receive his spiritual nourishment. And then we may be able to share or spread God’s love in terms of mission to people living around us.

The abiding presence of the risen Christ

Over the past weeks, I have kept saying God is everywhere, so we can worship the Lord everywhere we live. Yes, that is true! I don’t want to take this statement back at all. And I am so thankful for this on-line service that helps us worship God at our homes. This is a very creative change in our worship and I really can say this kind of technology, like our Bible or sacraments, is a means of grace. But I still want to remind you that we Christians are the people who are called to gather together in Jesus’ name. Without our bodily connection to the community of faith in Jesus’ name, we can’t really say that we abide in Jesus Christ.

Friends, this is May, the perfect season of spring. In my weekly letter, I told you that I could feel a powerful energy coming from everywhere. Soon, we will be busy with our garden work, cutting, trimming, pruning, and planting. I hope these spring events in your garden remind you of Jesus saying, “I am the Vine and you are the branches” and encourage you to prepare for coming back to our community, the body of Christ, as you stretch spiritually in the protection of our loving God. Amen.

April 26th Worship Service & Sermon: The Divine Presence through the means of Grace

Please join us for our April 26th Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/RKp1iNXbCGo

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 26, 2020 [White or Gold]

Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:13-35

The divine presence through the means of grace

How to connect with God

When my mom returned to her country, I gave her a photo album because I knew she would really miss her life along with us something terrible. You know, photos help us to remember the story of our lives together. One day she told me on the phone that every night she looked at all the photos of our cat Mimi. (When she was here, we adopted her into our family; Mimi is her granddaughter) While looking at her photos, she feels like Mimi is there with her. Whenever she misses her, she looks at her photos and soothes her longing heart. It seems like the photos are a kind of instrument or means that helps her to connect with Mimi.

Have you ever missed God? This question means that you leave God or God leaves you. But this question doesn’t sound right, because the Bible says God is everywhere in our lives and in our world. But it is true that we sometimes feel God is nowhere in our lives or is far away from us. It is only because we can’t see God just like we see people face to face.

So when you want to see God or feel God’s presence in your lives, what do you do? Where do you find him? Just as my mom looks at all the photos of Mimi whenever she wants to see her, do you also look at a cross or portrait of Jesus? Do those icons or decorations really help you to feel God’s presence in your life? What are the instruments or means that help you to connect with the invisible God who is always present in your lives?

Today’s Gospel reading is a story of how the hidden God reveals himself. I am sure that you have heard sermons based on what happened on the road to Emmaus, although not from me! But it is a story worth repeating again and again because it gives us confidence of God’s presence in our lives. Let me give you a quick review of this passage.

The means of God’s grace

In the passage, we meet the two discouraged disciples walking sadly on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. They were heading home with crushed dreams and lost hopes. As they journeyed, surprisingly the risen Jesus came near and walked with them. But more surprisingly, they didn’t recognize it was their master Jesus whom they had loved and followed during his public ministry. He even conducted a kind of Bible study with them, and they felt their hearts were burning inside when he explained the Scriptures to them.  But they were still deaf and blind to his presence and they didn’t recognize him.

When the day was almost over, they had to stay in a village for the night. Inside the inn, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. When they received it, their eyes were opened and they finally recognized him. But soon afterward he vanished from their sight again. Once they experienced his resurrection, they got up and returned to Jerusalem to proclaim to their friends, “The Lord has risen” (v. 34).

This story happened 2,000 years ago, but this is our own story of today. Sometimes we happen to walk along the road to our own Emmaus with a broken or anxious heart. We forget all the powers and grace of God and are left alone to ponder “why me?” or “why this?” But then God comes into our broken heart, and we experience his grace and then start over with hope and confidence.

But the question is, how can we recognize this invisible God’s presence in our lives, so that we may experience conversion or life-change? Over the past two weeks, we learned how and where people found the risen Christ. On Easter Sunday, we saw Mary Magdalene find the risen Christ at the empty tomb and last Sunday we saw the disciples find the risen Christ when they were crouching in their dark room. But today’s passage gives us another lesson on how to meet the risen Christ. Unlike their experiences the two disciples walking on the road found him when they participated in the Holy Communion.

What they experienced 2,000 years ago is our own experience in our faith’s journey. We believe the church is the body of Christ where we receive God’s grace. But when we come to the church and just sit in the sanctuary, we don’t feel God’s power and grace until we participate in worship and ministry.

Back to today’s Gospel lesson. The two discouraged disciples were with the risen Christ – they were sitting in the church in terms of our belief. But they still didn’t recognize him among them until they participated in the Communion he presided over for them. This story teaches us that when we attend the “means of grace,” we can meet God who is always present in our lives. In other words, the means of grace is the way we encounter God and God shows his revelation to us.

Sometimes I meet people who believe that God is everywhere. They usually consider themselves spiritual but not religious. These spiritual people say that they can see God’s glory in the sunset; they can hear God’s voice in bird’s singing; they can see God in a little baby’s face. Great, so do I because I also truly believe God is everywhere in our lives and in our world.

Yet I want to ask them this question, “Do you see God everywhere in nature and worship the Lord through all creatures? Very good. But how about in the face of cancer? Cancer is nature too. Why are you afraid of this coronavirus? It also comes from nature and God is there too. Why can’t you find hope, joy, and peace when you go through a dark valley? The dark valley is also nature and God is there too. Back to the Gospel story, “The road to Emmaus” the two disciples were walking on is part of nature and the risen Christ was indeed there among them. But why couldn’t they recognize him on the road?

It’s true that God is everywhere in this world, but this story teaches us that we still have to participate in the means of grace if we really want to experience God’s presence. Based on their experience, I want to encourage you to diligently join our worship service, Holy Communion, Bible class, and prayer chain ministry in which our Lord is present to meet all of us, touch us, heal us, and give us power and grace.

“We can’t get access to the means of grace because we can’t come to the church these days?” I can hear your argument. Surely, the church is the sign of the body of Christ and it is the means of grace. But God is not only in the church but everywhere in our lives and in our world. The two disciples met the risen Christ on the road, not in the temple, and they had a bible study on the road, they prayed to God on the road, they worshiped the Lord on the road, they experienced conversation in their hearts on the road, not in the temple.

God is everywhere, which means grace is also given everywhere we live. God is there in your homes among your families. God is there when you pray with your family and worship the Lord through this on-line service. Wherever you are, you worship the Lord, and you will be connected with God. And I can imagine that when we are able to come back to our church, you will be so delighted to witness to how God has blessed you, just like those two disciples who came back to Jerusalem after they experienced the risen Christ on their journey.

The unseen companion

After 2000 years, the God of Emmaus is still among us when our days are over and darkness approaches us. Jesus our Lord comes in our brokenness to walk with us, listen to us, and talk with us. But he comes as “the unseen companion” and we have to strive to find him.

How and where can we find him? The Lord of resurrection can be found when we participate in the means of grace that is present in our everyday life. As long as we pray, listen to the Scriptures and meditate on it, gather in Jesus’ name, and share our fellowship with one another, God will be delighted to show his power and grace and transform us to new creations. Amen.

April 19th Worship Service & Sermon: Rejoice in the Midst of Trial

Please join us for our April 19th Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/Qu1anIE2jWg

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 19, 2020 [White or Gold] The Second Sunday of Easter

1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-23

Rejoice in the Midst of Trial

Gloomy days in April

It’s April, it’s spring. The days are getting longer and the weather is getting milder. When I go out early in the morning these days, I can feel the energy of spring – birds are singing in the air and trees and flowers begin to bud. But I can’t open my windows because it’s still so cold outside. I already turned off my heat but still sleep under my winter blanket.

April in New England is a very capricious season. Last week, we had rainy days, a snowy day, cloudy day, and sunny days. The day after the storm passed, when I went out, I

saw a number of broken branches scattered on the ground. I just talked to myself, “What is so sad in the land where we live, that heaven wails in grief?” And I was reminded of my grandmother’s death when I was a little boy. When she passed away, it had rained all day long. I was so innocent to think that all the raindrops must be the tears that she was shedding in heaven.

Watching the news on TV these days, I think that heaven is weeping for our world that has been terrified by this Covid-19 pandemic.  Just in our country, there have been over 600,000 confirmed cases, and over 25,000 who have died. What a tragedy it is! Spring has come, but we haven’t heard any joyful greetings of spring but only sad and gloomy news all around the world.

The cruelest April

T.S. Eliot says in his poem, The Waste Land, “April is the cruelest month.” Just like me, does he complain about the capricious weather of April? Perhaps in his poem he tries to remind us of historical tragedies which occurred in April. Interestingly enough, our history shows the strange fact that many righteous and innocent people suffered tragic deaths in April. Here are some famous examples.

In April 9, 1945, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer had gone to the execution ground of a Nazi concentration camp. He was martyred for his righteous fight against Hitler’s tyranny. He made this famous statement, which was the reason why he joined the German resistance movement against Nazism: “Hitler is driving Germany to catastrophe.  If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

April 15, 1865 is the day when the most honorable President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed. He was the man who led the liberation movement for the Black of America. He left these famous words that show his desire to see the emancipation of slaves: “As I don’t want to be a slave of others, I don’t want to stand in place of ruling others.”

Even though he freed the black from slavery, the racial discrimination still remained between the black and the white until the middle of the last century. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his whole life to fighting against it and establish human rights in America. While he was still advocating for the civil rights movement, he was assassinated by a gunshot in April 8, 1968. Before he died, he exclaimed in his most famous speech: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men [and women] are created equal.’”

How said it is that the righteous have to fall down by the power of evil. When the lives of great leaders and saints have to end in tragedy, no doubt millions of people fall into deep sorrow. Why didn’t God intervene in this kind of tragedy if he is really the God of justice?

Considering the progress of our history, however, we may recognize that God didn’t let their sacrifices go in vain. Because of someone like Bonhoeffer, the Nazi regime collapsed; because of someone like Lincoln, democracy has been advanced; because of someone like Martin Luther King, we live in a world where all kinds of races live together in equality, freedom, and peace. If we believe we live in a better world, we should admit that we are indebted to their sacrifices for our life, history, and civilization.

Death and Resurrection in April

April is also the cruelest month to all Christians in that our Lord Jesus was sacrificed sometime in April, according to our Christian calendar. When he fell to death, all his disciples and followers fell into deep sorrow and despair. Hiding in their room, they must have thought that there would be no more hope in their lives.

Ironically, however, April is also the month full of hope to all Christians in that he was risen from the dead sometime that month. According to John’s Gospel lesson, the risen Christ didn’t let his disciples be stuck in their dark room. Immediately, he reached out to them and spoke to them, “Peace be with you” (v. 19), breathed on them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 22), and then encouraged them to go out to the world “to forgive the sins of others” (v. 23).

What do you feel when you read this resurrection story? As I meditated on this again and again last week, I felt the dazzling morning sunlight shine through the curtain of my window into my dark room. I even felt the fresh spring breeze touch my skin and renew my spirit. I could also imagine that all the dark clouds would suddenly disappear, and people, looking at the sunny sky, would shout in joy, “What a wonderful day!”

The broken-hearted disciples met the risen Christ in their dark room! That is the point of today’s Gospel lesson. Darkness in the Bible is often described as a mysterious moment for people to encounter God. For example, God appeared to Abraham in the night and promised him descendants more numerous than the stars. The Exodus from Egypt happened at night. Moses received the Ten Commandments from God who descended on the thick darkness atop Mount Sinai. The Apostle Paul’s conversion happened after he lost his sight. Jesus was born beneath a star at night and resurrected in darkness of a cave. The risen Christ came back to his broken-hearted disciples when they were crouching in a dark room.

Even if we happen to be stuck in the dark, it does not mean that there is no more hope and joy in our life. Rather, the Apostle Peter in his letter encourages us to “rejoice, even if now for a little while [we] have to suffer various trials” (v. 6) because it is a time to meet the risen Christ who has a power to transform our lives.

Rejoice in our trials

It’s April, it’s a beautiful season. It’s the season when grass grows, flowers bloom, and squirrels are crossing in our gardens. But it’s still cold outside, and we can’t open the windows yet. We still have to see the strong wind breaking the branches and white snow falling on the green grass. Nevertheless, April is the season of spring. The warm air will eventually kick out the cold wind, and sooner or later we will open the windows and rejoice in our beautiful days.

It is Easter! It is a joyful season. It is the season of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and his final victory over the power of death and sin. But we still have to watch for bad things that continue to happen and hurt our lives, and sadly enough, there is nothing we can do to stop them except to crouch in our dark rooms and pray for the victims.

Even so, let us rejoice in our trials because we are told this morning that God will not let our tears go in vain; as much as we weep in pain, God will provide us with days to laugh with joy. While waiting for that day, today’s scripture reminds us that the risen Christ comes in our broken-hearted to give us the gifts of his peace and the Holy Spirit, that we may have the power to endure the current trial, drive it out, and will soon celebrate our final victory. Amen.

Easter Worship Service & Sermon: New Life with the Risen Christ

Please join us for our Easter Worship Service!  You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/2ohEehh05jA

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 12, 2020 [White] Easter Day John 20:1-18
Life changes on Easter morning

Tears on Easter morning
Brothers and sisters, we come together this morning to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord. When someone says, “Christ is risen,” we are delighted to respond together, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
Easter is supposed to be the best day of the entire Church year, isn’t it? But Due to the current world circumstances, our risen Savior seems not nearly as close to us today. Instead, we still have to stay home to protect our lives from our invisible enemy roaming on our streets. As we watch the news, we see tears of people who are suffering from this pandemic. Watching all those tragedies, it may be hard to celebrate Easter.
Regardless of this coronavirus, we know there are lots of tears in our world. There are always tears over the loss of our beloved; there is brokenness in our families; there are always diseases and violence in our world. While thinking of those tears, I was also reminded of my mom’s tears when I left her alone in her country. She kept saying through her tears “Son, I may never see you again until I die.” Separation is always hard. I didn’t cry because I am a big boy, but my heart was broken when I left my mom behind.
Why do you talk about tears or pain and sorrow on this Easter Sunday morning? Are you still stuck in Lent, just like you confessed last week? Not really! But I still have to talk about tears because it is a reality in our present situation, and is actually the subject of today’s Gospel lesson.

Meeting the risen Christ in our grief
In our passage from John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene was in tears early on Easter Sunday morning. We know how much she loved Jesus. She had centered all her hope and trust in him. But her heart was terribly broken because she had seen Jesus die, really die, cruelly, on the cross and buried in a tomb. She was crying because just like my mom, she thought she would never see her Lord and Friend Jesus again. Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, she came to the tomb to see Jesus again just as we want to have a last look at our beloved lying in the coffin in the funeral home.
When she arrived at the tomb, however, she couldn’t see Jesus’ body because it was not there. She thought that someone had taken away the body, but she didn’t know where to find it. Then she saw someone close by, probably a gardener who had risen early. In weeping, she asked him, “[“Where is Jesus?”] (v. 15)
“Where is Jesus?” Isn’t this what we often say when we are in trouble? Just like Mary, I have been in a desperate situation, that I needed Jesus to be right here with me more, so I came to church and cried for help. Of course, I never doubted that Jesus is my Savior; he is my Shepherd; he takes care of my life. But I felt like my heart was still thirsty and even empty. So just like Mary, I wondered, “Where are you, Lord?”
So where was Jesus when Mary was desperate for him? According to the passage, he was actually there in front of her eyes. Surprisingly, the man who she thought was a gardener was Jesus. How could she mistake Jesus for a gardener? In her deep sorrow, she couldn’t recognize him standing in front of her.
Just like Mary, we are sometimes overwhelmed by grief or despair, and we may forget Jesus is alive; he is in control, he has a plan for us; and he is always here in our lives. But the truth is, Jesus, fully alive, is there in our grief. He has conquered our death and our future is safe in his hands.

Seeking Jesus in grief
In her grief, she lost her vision and her faith and that’s why she couldn’t see Jesus in the midst of it. But we should learn from her. Let me continue her story.
Yes, Mary was there to look for Jesus. According to the text, however, she was not the only one who was looking for him. Just like her, Peter and John also came to the tomb when they heard Jesus’ body was missing. They were desperate just like Mary, but unlike Mary they hurried back to their home, not even searching for his body, because they were afraid of people’s eyes on them. But Mary didn’t give up. After the two disciples left, she still stayed in the tomb. She was even more desperate for Jesus – “Where is Jesus?” she cried out! And finally, Jesus came. He called her name, “Mary” (v. 16), and her grief turned to joy.
Just like Mary and the disciples, we get into desperate situations and need Jesus to be right there in our situations as we believe that he is our Savior. But the question is, how earnestly do you seek the Lord? Just like the disciples, will you come to the church several times or pray several days and just give up and go back to your homes? Or Just like Mary, will you continue to come and look for the Savior? You know which one is the one we must follow. Just like Mary, you can be upset; you can be frustrated; you can be desperate in your grief, but just like her, don’t give up; keep calling his name and keep looking for him. Jesus knows why you are sad and what you need; he knows your name and will speak it in love when you continue to look for him. Those who earnestly seek him will find him.
And finally, look at what Mary did next after she met the risen Christ. She went to the disciples and said, “I have seen the Lord” (v. 18). She didn’t keep thinking about her own emotions but went out to witness to the Good News. What a dramatic reversal of life! She came to the tomb with tears but went back home with tremendous joy! When she encountered the risen Christ, Mary also experienced resurrection in her heart, that she could live a new life and new joy.

Keep looking for Jesus
Reflecting on Mary’s conversion, let me say this to you: the miracle of the resurrection is not only that God raised Jesus from the dead, but also that God changed the way of our life by the power of resurrection. As we encounter Christ, sadness turns into joy; despair turns into hope; fear turns into courage.
How can we encounter the risen Christ, so that we can also have new life in him and peace in spite of our struggles? On the Easter Sunday morning, Mary teaches us what we should do. In the midst of our grief, we must cry out, “Where is Jesus?” Jesus is near when we are desperate for him. He cares about our loss and pain. He has conquered our death; he has broken its grip, so that you might have hope and comfort, even in the death of our sorrows. “Where is Jesus?” We have to keep looking for him until he calls our names and shows his final victory! Amen.