The Joy of God’s Reign
Reflection 121519 (Advent 3) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 35:1-10/ Psalm 146:5-10/ Matthew 11:2-11
The Joy of God’s Reign
Today, I will start with a very personal anecdote of mine. I used to be a proud Methodist. The reason why I made a difficult decision to leave my beloved mother church was over the LGBTQ issues. I was so frustrated at how the Methodist Church treats the members of the LGBTQ community with such ambiguity and hypocrisy. So, I went to Montreal to pursue graduate studies while trying to join the United Church of Canada. The second Sunday I’ve ever worshipped at my United Church in Montreal was the first day I met their minister. He is an older man with silvery hair. During his sermon that day, he told us the story of a gay man facing stigma and discrimination and I had tears in my eyes. After the sermon was my first Holy Communion in the United Church of Canada, and the tears that started during the sermon never stopped until way after the communion. I was alone, I didn’t yet know anyone there, and I was embarrassed about crying like an idiot. They were tears of sublime joy. I had known about my new church’s inclusive policies, and yes, that was the reason why I left my Methodist Church, but experiencing this inclusivity was completely different from merely knowing it with my reason. Experiences are powerful. In the Methodist Church, we always open the Holy Communion by saying, “This is the Lord’s Table, and everyone is welcome,” but because of the church’s ambiguous stance on the LGBTQ issues, it didn’t feel like EVERYONE was welcome. The first Sunday of September 2012 was the day I experienced the profound joy of God’s kingdom. That is why we sang Never Ending Joy this morning.
This profound joy of God’s kingdom comes from proclaiming liberation to marginalized and suffering people. God’s anointed king for whom Israelites have been long waiting would set the suffering people free from their oppressors. Both today’s psalm and Isaiah profess this hope and anticipation. Our psalm says that God, who made heaven and earth and the sea will execute justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry, and freedom to the prisoners; therefore, “Praise the Lord!” Isaiah proclaims everlasting joy because the ransomed of the Lord will return. The parched ground will be filled with springs of water, the eyes of the blind will be opened and the lame will leap like a deer. The Israelites should rejoice since their God will come and save them.
It was a long waiting and people kept their ears and eyes open to see if any of the prophets preaching in the streets might be the One. When John the Baptist started baptising and preaching, people wondered if he was the One. Then when Jesus came out preaching and healing, people wondered if he was the One. John himself denied that he was the One; he understood his calling as the one preparing the way for the real One. In today’s gospel story, some of John’s followers came to Jesus and asked him if he was the One. We can feel people’s desperate hope and anticipation for the One God promised to set them free and restore their dignity. How Jesus answers them tells us the truth about how experience and witness are what matter; if you have to tell people what and who you are, you are not what and whom you proclaim to be, as I learned from corporate and advertising experts. Jesus says, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see. The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Jesus doesn’t have to tell people that he is the One; hearing, seeing, and experiencing Jesus should be enough proof. We Christians who have never experienced Jesus firsthand hear testimonies from the followers who came before us and the stories of the Christians who led a life worthy of Jesus. Hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, and experiencing is how we learn to know, well, anything.
We know that Jesus is the Chosen One of God because he proclaimed God’s reign in which no one is oppressed, as the prophets and psalmists claimed in their writings. The Good News of Jesus brings profound joy to God’s people because we understand that God loves, values, and empowers the marginalized members of our society. It’s profound joy, not only for the marginalized people, but also for the privileged people who don’t want to dominate; they are happy for the empowerment of the marginalized people. The only people who would not perceive the gospel as good news are the ones who want to dominate and discriminate. The gospel of Jesus is called Good News because it is good news for everyone, without anyone excluded. As we wait for the coming of the Christ Child, let us remind ourselves of God’s indiscriminatory love for all God’s people, unite under that love, and rejoice for the One who brought us “peace on earth and goodwill to all men.” And let us share with our neighbours the sublime and profound joy of God’s reign that we received from the Good News of Jesus,