May 3rd Worship Service: “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.
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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: 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.

April 19th Worship Service: 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.
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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: 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.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 Strengthen Hope in the Passion

The gloomy season

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

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

Walking with Joseph

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

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

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

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

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

“God is with us”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking in hope

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon Message

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

Do not panic but pray in the time of suffering

Out of our control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


March 22, 2020 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ

Why me?

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

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

Keep our eyes on Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ eyes on us

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

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

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

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

Take Jesus’ yoke

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

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

Sermon: Lost and Found

September 15, 2019
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Luke 15:1-10
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Lost and Found

The Gospel Within the Gospel
How many of you have a habit of losing things, things like a wallet, a key, a credit card, or, a pair of socks or earrings? What did you do when you lost one of those? Did you just say, “Oh well, no problem, I can always get another one?” No, I believe you would search everywhere you had been until you found what you lost. I bet finding the lost is the most important thing in your life at that moment. 

God knows what it feels like to lose something. To find the lost, God even sent his only Son Jesus Christ to the world (Jn 3:16). God is always searching for something, not because he can’t remember where he lost it; he knows where it is. He knows who we are, where we are, and what we need. He always finds us and brings us to the fold. 

The parables of Luke 15 are called “the Gospel within the Gospel;” they talk about “lost and found!” More correctly, we are lost but found by God! “We are never lost!” This is the Good News for all of us! 

 Seeking, Finding, and Celebrating
In the first parable, Jesus talked about a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of his sheep strayed away from the flock and became lost. Sheep are silly and simple animals; they always look down as they nibble on grass. Later, the sheep can end up in a place where they become the eaten rather than the eater.

When the shepherd knew one of his sheep was lost, he left the other ninety-nine to find the lost one. During his search, the shepherd might confront deep ravines, hidden corners, steep hills, or even wild animals in the wilderness. But he certainly went through a trial to find the lost sheep. When he found it, he was so excited that he called all of his friends and said, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (v. 6). 

We are sometimes like sheep, not necessarily because we are sinners. We get lost even without meaning to get lost. Like the sheep, we probably never look up; we only look down, just chasing after what we need for our daily life…and before we know it, we are lost! We went too far, and we don’t know how to come back.  

However, if we are like sheep, we know we will be found, not because we know how to come back but because a shepherd found us. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who always comes and finds us when we are lost. 

In the second parable, Jesus talked about a widow who had ten silver coins. When she lost one coin, she didn’t say, “Well, I still have nine others, so I don’t care about the lost one.” In Jesus’ day, one silver coin was worth a day’s wages. That is to say, one coin could feed the whole family for a week. That’s why the widow turned on every light in the house, swept the floor, and searched everywhere until she found it (v. 8). 

We get lost just like the coin. The coin in this parable had been in a dark corner. Likewise, life sometimes takes us away into some dark corners. We feel alone and that nobody cares for us. Perhaps some of you have said in the darkest of moments, “I don’t deserve a happy life anymore; I don’t belong here; I am forgotten; No one is looking for me…” At times like that, we might feel home-bound, shut-in, or isolated from all the social connections in our communities. 

But in this parable, Jesus tells us that God comes to find the lost. God knows us, God knows our hiding place where we slip into from time to time, God searches for us, and he won’t stop until we are found. In this parable, the woman turned her house upside down to find her lost coin. Why? Although it was a little coin, it was precious to her. Likewise, every one of us in this sanctuary, everyone in this world, is precious to God. All human beings are created by God, which means all are God’s children, so God would turn the world upside down to find the lost, even if it is only one soul in the world. 

That’s exactly what God did. Through Jesus God turned the whole world upside down. The God of the universe came among us as a human baby named Jesus. He lived and died as one of us and stretched his arms out to us from the cross to welcome the lost, the least, the losers, and even the sinners. He sacrificed his life for all human beings, whether or not they deserve it. If we truly love this Jesus and want to follow his way, like Jesus, we’d also stretch our arms to welcome anyone to us, even for one lost person. 

Reflecting on this parable, I want to remind you that Jesus Christ built his Church as a welcoming community. We should treat everyone as God’s beloved child! We should welcome everyone to God’s house, no matter who they are, what they do, and where they journey in the world. We should celebrate when someone who has been lost is found and joins our church services.  

The woman celebrated when she found her lost coin. It’s significant that she didn’t save it but used it for a party with her friends and neighbors. Doesn’t it sound foolish? She tried hard to find one coin and then used it for a party with many others! The party might have cost more than the one silver coin. Is it nonsense, or is it grace?

If we are like the coins which have been lost and found, then we must be thankful that we are God’s precious ones. We must also realize that God wouldn’t just tuck us away in some safe-deposit box. God would say to us, “Let’s have a party now.” If we see ourselves as God’s precious souls, we will be willing to use our time, money, and energy to celebrate our grace with many others.

Dancing with Christ
There are lots of things that happen only in the movies. For example, when one person starts dancing in the street, then suddenly everyone else starts to dance along with him or her. And they know all the steps! With their joyful dancing, the square turns to a festival field and everybody there is united with each other in joy and jubilation. But we know it happens only in the movies. 

Likewise, Jesus’ parables in today’s text are not quite logical to human minds. A shepherd leaving 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep and a woman throwing a party after finding a lost coin does not make sense. Does anyone actually do that? It seems unreal like in the movies. 

But this unreal-looking-ministry is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus goes a long way just to find one lost soul. When he finds the one, he is delighted to waste his money and have a party with people. Throughout these parables, Jesus is calling us, saying “Is there anyone who wants to go with me just to find the one lost sheep? Is anyone willing to stretch one’s arms to welcome even sinners living around us? Is anyone willing to offer one’s time, talents, money, hands, and heart just to have a party to celebrate our rescue mission?”

If we are truly found in God’s grace, we won’t be reluctant to join Jesus’ dancing in the streets. I am sure that we know all the steps to his dance. It is the step of reaching out to one soul, the step of stretching our arms to welcome anyone, the step of forgiveness and reconciliation with sinners, and the step of dedication for the sake of Christ’s prodigal grace for all in the world. Amen.