April 26th Worship Service: 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.
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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.

Men’s Palm Sunday Service and Breakfast

Men’s Palm Sunday Service and Breakfast
April 14, 2019
7 am
at Rockville Untied Methodist Church
$5 per person

Pastor David Martin will lead the communion service.

The Women of RUMC will cook and serve the breakfast.
Hosted by Rockville UMC, Manchester UMC, and Bolton UMC

Please call or email your reservation:|
860-875-6562 or [email protected]

 

 

Sermon: Servanthood in Diversity

July 22, 2018
Ordinary Time/Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 1:24-28; Mark 10:42-45
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Servanthood in Diversity

Cross-cultural/cross-racial ministry
One of the beauties that I can say about our communities is “diversity.” It’s not only diversity with many different ethnic groups but also diversity with wild animals. But my first impression of diversity here came from the invitation to Richard’s graduation party. There I saw little kids, young adults, early twenties and thirties, and some adults and some old folks. Regardless of age, or racial, or social differences, we all just had a wonderful time. For that, Richard in the midst of the whole crowd was so busy hosting the party all day long and making everybody connected to each other, feeling comfortable and enjoying the party all together.

The worship and ministry we are doing together is called “cross-cultural/cross-racial ministry.” I cross over the bridge to serve you and you also cross over the bridge to welcome me and work with me in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. The most important task of this ministry is how to keep or manage peace and harmony among us.

When I was in Vermont, I was only one (as an Asian man) in my white community. Truly, I am now feeling much more comfortable here in CT because I am just one of a lot. But I can tell my rural ministry brought me a wonderful lesson about diversity, not from people (because they are all white folks) but from the green mountains in Vermont. Let me share my previous experience in Vermont, based on my sermon theme, “diversity and harmony.”

Diversity in Vermont
When I said, “I came from Boston,” some of the parishioners questioned me back, “Why?” That question of why sounded like “What’s wrong?” Well, I understand why people wondered about my moving to Vermont. It’s such a radical change, isn’t it?

Since I was born in the world, I had been always a city boy who knows about a traffic jam, a nasty smell and a loud noisy from the streets. But all of a sudden, I had to learn how to deal with black flies and bugs, how to get along with a lot of trees everywhere, how to survive a winter, and how to drive down on country roads during the winter season. Of course, I had enjoyed hiking, going fishing, and kayaking on the lake.

One of my joys in that small country was to see animals. Before I moved there, the animals I was familiar with were only dogs and cats. But after I moved there, I could see lots of wild animals and domestic animals like chickens, cows, goats, horses, and so forth. Most people in my congregation had those animals just for pleasure or pastime after their retirements. But it’s still a lot of work to feed and take care of animals.

When I visited an old couple from my congregation, I saw their two goats and four chickens in their little farm. The wife introduced her goats as her babies. I was little nervous and even scared when I got close to them. Who knows if they would attack me because I was a stranger to them? But unlike my worry, they were very friendly to me. A while later, she gave me a little bowl that had corn kernels. When I put those corn on my palm, the goats came to me right away and licked my palm to eat the corn. It was my first time touching goats, and I was feeling great! “Wow, people and animals live together like a family here in Vermont!” That was my impression after I looked around their farm.

Diversity in God’s creation
What made me most marvel at in Vermont was the glory of God’s creation in the earth, sky, mountain and lake, and soon I came to humble myself by the reality that God cares for all creatures so insignificant as humankind. When I got to the top of Elmore mountain, I just spoke to myself with delight, “It is good.” (I never forget my shock to see the fresh greenness all over the land.) “Indeed, it was very good” (vv. 21, 25), this is what God proclaimed when God created all things in the beginning. God also blessed each of them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (vv. 22, 24). This passage teaches us that it is God’s will for all the creatures to thrive on earth.

Yet I believe there is some other deeper reason why God said his creation was good. I believe it’s about harmony. Although they were many and all different, all of the living creatures were not in competition or conflict but in harmony and peace. God created all creatures in huge swarms, in great diversity, and in perfect harmony with one another. Harmony in diversity is the beauty of God’s creation!

Living in peace and harmony must be the question we have to take seriously as we live in very diverse communities. How do we like to see other races? How can we communicate with other cultures? How can we live together and get along with them in our diverse world? For those questions, I got the answer from the parishioners’ farm. That is “feeding.” They fed their animals and they got along together and their farm was full of peace and harmony. In terms of our Christian ministry, it’s service that brings us fellowship and reconciliation.

Dominion as stewardship
Now I want to address human creatures. The good news is that God created humans in the image of God. God was even pleased to give us a special authority – to exercise dominion over other creatures, so we are like a God to them; “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (v. 28). Thus, it seems like humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation, right?

Yes, we have dominion over all kinds of animals in the world. That’s why we can have pets for pleasure. That’s why we can have cattle farming as a business. But when we have pets, don’t we know we are also responsible for them? At least, we have to feed them every day; we have to give them some shots and sometimes bring them to animal hospitals; we also have to walk our dogs in order to help them stay healthy. Many people even consider their pets as their own children. When we have pets or cattle, we are responsible for serving their needs.

Now I want to talk about Noah’s Ark. Noah was a special man that God entrusted creatures to him, so he had dominion over all the animals that joined his Ark. So what did he do to the animals with his dominating power? He had to feed them, remove their wastes, and make sure all the companions got along with each other in the Ark. This Savior Noah had to work hard as a servant to all of the creatures.

If we understand the definition of dominion in Genesis as stewardship or servanthood, we are to delight in other creatures, as God does, and to take responsibility for them. (think about Jesus who is the eternal Lord buts lived as a servant to all). Jesus our Lord says in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (v. 43-45).

Probably our communities and our world are like Noah’s Ark and as we have the Gospel from Jesus Christ, we are like Noah to whom God entrusts all things. How can we preach the Gospel to all the creatures; how can we restore God’s creation back to peace and harmony with each other? If we understand our Christian vocation as stewardship or service, we see others as our companions in our journey; we can welcome all human races as our brothers and sisters in God. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, but it matters to us how to let all people come together, reconcile with each other, and live and thrive together in peace and harmony. Servanthood is the way we bring God’s kingdom on earth.

The GOM’s service and fellowship
We have some very dedicated men serving our church through their works.  The Grumpy Old Men (GOM’s) meet every Wednesday morning to provide maintenance work on our church building and grounds.  Their (often unseen) actions keep our church in good condition and support our church events and services.  The men break for coffee, doughnuts, and fellowship about half-way through the morning. Friendships are formed and strengthened among these men over a cup of coffee.

What’s the secret of our coexistence with others in our diverse communities? In our GOM’s dedication and service, I saw the greatest serve the least; I saw the image of God and the image of Jesus the Shepherd who feeds his flock and cares for all creation. In your serving hands to others, I saw God’s redemption and reconciliation with all of creation. Amen.