Whenever I think of the word ‘peace,’ I think of my college Women’s Studies class in which we discussed women who are victims of domestic violence. Just because they don’t make noise about their oppression and look peaceful on the outside, that doesn’t mean they or their relationship are at peace. I learned from that class that true peace cannot be achieved without justice.
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24/ Psalm 100/ Matthew 25:31-46
What Kind of Reign?
King Arthur and His Round Table
When I was 17, I went to university to study French language and literature. That is when I studied the legend of King Arthur because there was an old French writer who collected King Arthur’s stories; that is how King Arthur’s legend became an important part of the history of the French literature, as well as of the English literature. I have a little embarrassing confession to make at this point; because of my studies of French literature, I thought King Arthur was French.
Anyway, the reason why I am starting today’s message with King Arthur is because of his famous round table. The Round Table of Arthur and his knights is a symbol of a non-authoritarian reign. We celebrate today as the Reign of Christ Sunday and our mind goes to God or Jesus ruling over us. But the question we should ask is, “What kind of a reign are we talking about?” Some rulers in history have been tyrants and some have been benevolent and just. So what kind of a reign is the reign of Christ?
I am starting today’s message with a show and tell. These are some of my saints cards. This is St. Thomas Aquinas, the great early church theologian. This is St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits. This is St. Francis of Assisi, who needs little introduction. This is St. Maximilian Kolbe, who volunteered to die instead of a family man in Auschwitz. This is St. Cecilia, the patron saint for musicians.
I like learning about the saints of the Catholic Church, not because I pray to them like the Catholics, but because they are role models for people of faith. There are also other great people of faith in history who inspire me. John Wesley, the father of the Methodist Church, is one of my favorite people of faith in history.
I remember vaguely what I learned in my Church History class about the Tudor England converting to Protestantism. We know the gist: Martin Luther happened in Germany, a lot of people followed the Reformation movement, in England, King Henry VIII denounced Catholicism to give himself a divorce from the first wife who failed to give him a male heir, his heir King Edward continued to turn his country protestant, the next Ruler, Queen Mary turned the country back to Catholicism, and her heir, Queen Elizabeth I established the Church of England, a.k.a. the Anglican Church. One thing I remember from my Church History class about this is how Elizabeth chose the “middle of the way” solution to offend fewer people.
Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Did you cook a traditional turkey dinner? We tried something different this year. In our effort to contribute to undoing the climate crisis, we cooked our first vegan Thanksgiving dinner. We are not turning 100% vegan; we are just trying to eat less meat and dairy.
Food is essential to life, both for the bodies of animals and plants, but also for the health of our planet. Our planet is affected by what we grow and eat. Food is also essential for celebration. That is why we have holiday dinners. Food is so essential that those who don’t have access to enough food suffer and die.
Deuteronomy 8:7-18/ 2 Corinthians 9:6-15/ Luke 17:11-19
Thanksgiving as a Lifestyle
I grew up with my mother commenting on how spoiled we were as children, compared to how her generation grew up. Then I grew up and think children these days are spoiled. I realized that the more we possess, the more we become spoiled and entitled. I think that is just a universal truth. I remember having to literally “dial” a telephone, physically go the TV to change the channel or volume, or wait for half an hour for a friend at a coffee shop because we didn’t have cell phones. Newer generations have more than we had, and with more possessions, the sense of entitlement increases. When we have more and more of anything, we tend to forget the times when we didn’t have those things, and are no longer impressed or feel grateful, because having those things is considered the norm now. They don’t feel like special gifts anymore.
I have great respect for those who can learn and change. I have heard of conservative Christian parents who let their bigoted ideas be challenged through their queer children. Respect for them, for a lot of parents of queer children disown them and throw them out. Rev. Lee from the Korean Methodist Church, who has become an enthusiastic defender of the queer people in South Korea, wasn’t always accepting of queerness. His bigotry was challenged through the real-life queer people he met as a church minister. It is difficult to change our minds about something. It can feel like a big punch in the guts for our egos.
On a lighter note, I used to hate Marilyn Monroe for her hyper femininity linked with being a dumb blond. When I was younger and less wise, when I was a radical feminist, I felt that she was a bad example for other women. However, I learned that the dumb blond image was just a persona she was playing. I also learned about her life story, which changed my mind. Now I love her and find her extatically beautiful. I learned the errors of my ways and accepted Marilyn in my heart. It is difficult, but we can all change for the better. All we need is humility, which, I know, is easier said than done.
There is a Korean proverb, “Where you sow beans, there, beans grow; and where you sow red beans, there, red beans grow.” You can probably guess what it means. You get what you sow. It’s about cause and consequence. If you sow beans, you get beans. If you spoil your children, they grow up with a great sense of entitlement and ego. If I practise my piano pieces very carefully and solidify my memory, I probably won’t have a memory lapse while performing them. Every action has consequences.
What we have been experiencing in recent years with extreme climate events is the same. We have exploited our earthly resources in the name of progress. We have used our position as the most intelligent creatures on earth to use nature and other animals any way we wanted to satisfy our greed.
Do you know the pop star George Michael? He unfortunately passed away in 2016, but he was famous and popular since the 80’s. How about Andrew Ridgeley, do you know him? Not a lot of people know Ridgeley, but you will recognize the name of his musical band Wham!. Michael and Ridgeley were a pop duo called Wham! in the 80’s but few people know Ridgeley because he was overshadowed by the talent and charisma of George Michael. To be more precise, Ridgeley consciously stepped behind to let Michael shine. He was Michael’s best friend since they were 11, and the one who helped him out of his shell and gave him the confidence to shine and become a pop star.
Do you know who you are, whom God created you to be? When someone we know acts out of character, we might say, “Why are you doing this? It’s not you!” We say this because we know them. When I was 12 or 13, I loved looking at stars so much that I entertained the idea of studying astronomy. But even at that age, I knew that I couldn’t study astronomy because I was terrible at math. So, I decided to write poems about stars instead.
Searching for our identity can be a long journey. It might take a lot of years. It definitely needs God’s guidance and discernment. God knows us best since we were created by God.