Reflection 051720 May 17, 2020
1 Peter 3:13-22/ John 14:15-22
People of the Holy Spirit
This week, I saw a nurse’s post on social media about those who complain and protest about the quarantine. I was happy to read a medical professional’s post shutting down the complainers who don’t have the medical knowledge to decide what is safe or not, because I had been frustrated at the people who don’t heed the medical advice. With some bad language reflecting his anger and frustration at those people, he adds that if they get sick by being stupid and stubborn, he will take care of them all the same because he is a nurse. This bit made me reflect on a lot of things. Think of the US president; he has been ignoring science and failed to protect his people, and a lot of people hate him for it, but if he gets sick and is sent to the hospital, the doctors and nurses who are mad at him or hate him will still take care of him because of their oath.
The principle of not paying back evil with evil is the foundation of Christian faith and the Christian love taught by Jesus, and the most challenging part of following him. That is why we learn this lesson in 1 Peter chapter 3. “Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:16b-18)
As a woman of colour, I often experience sexism and racism in different forms. I meet people who mistreat me, hurt me, and make me hate them. We all do. Between bigotry and experiencing toxic people in my life, I have a lot of reasons to hate someone or be angry, which is why the Christian teaching to not pay back evil with evil is so challenging. It almost seems humanly impossible. The focus is on the word “humanly.” What seems humanly impossible, we are being told to do as followers of Jesus Christ. What we cannot do as humans, God’s spirit can help us do. Let us take a look at John chapter 14. As I mentioned last Sunday, here, Jesus is giving his last teaching before his arrest and death. How is this teacher to trust that his clueless disciples will do well in spreading his message of God’s kingdom after he is gone? He tells them that the Holy Spirit will come to them and be their helper. Jesus will not be there physically to guide them, but the Holy Spirit will. We belong to him and he belongs to us. How lovingly intimate! Because of Jesus’ teaching, we know that all those who follow him are the people of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, we can communicate with God and receive guidance. What is “humanly” impossible, we can achieve it with the help of this “Helper”, the Holy Spirit. For example, when I was dating Attila, his ex-wife, who is psychologically troubled, gave us such a hard time and did everything she could to delay the divorce process. “Humanly”, I hated her. I was angry. I had to pray for compassion… very hard! Eventually, I stopped hating her because I understood she has an undiagnosed psychiatric condition, which was the source of my compassion.
We are the people of the Holy Spirit. We belong to God through Jesus and his Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guide and helper. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-47). It seems humanly impossible, but we can do it because we belong to God and the Holy Spirit is our helper and guide. During this pandemic and the economic crisis that comes with it, we see a lot of people being selfish, and people who hold power being oppressive. This collective trauma is affecting all of us. This is a great time for us to be the people of the Holy Spirit and shine the light of Christ. Let the Spirit abide in us and guide our feelings, attitudes, words, and actions. Let us become bigger people in the face of collective trauma with impatience and emotions rising. Let us embody the compassion of God’s kingdom during this difficult time. Let the peace that only comes from God that surpasses all human understanding, be with us.
Reflection 051020 May 10, 2020
1 Peter 2:2-10/ John 14:1-14
The Ordinary Chosen for the Extraordinary
Today’s confession about myself is that I am an early childhood educator who is bad at arts and crafts; I have little artistic talent, which was my biggest weakness as a teacher. I do love looking at beautiful things, such as pieces of art, but I just have to admire those with talent. However, what amazes me about the world of arts or arts and crafts is not the greatest paintings of Van Gogh or Monet. It’s how a lot of artistically talented people create either artistic or useful things with garbage, recyclable materials. Have you ever seen art works created with used can lids or soda bottles? They are amazing. In the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory based on the children’s book of the same title, young Charlie collects deformed and useless toothpaste lids from his father’s toothpaste factory and builds a model of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. All these examples teach us that seemingly useless things can become useful.
In today’s reading in 1 Peter chapter 2, Jesus is compared to a stone that is rejected but was chosen by God. Also, we, his followers are living stones used Continue reading →
Reflection 050320 May 3, 2020
Psalm 23/ John 10:1-10
The Lord Is My Shepherd
I have a confession to make; when I was younger, I wanted to adopt children instead of having biological ones because I believed procreating extra human beings while so many children in the world are without homes was wrong. Well, when my best friends adopted Cedric and Sophie and made me their mom, I thought to myself, “Careful what you wish for!” Now I am middle-aged, haven’t procreated, and ended up becoming an adoptive mom through my best friends, for which I am extremely proud. While I was reading today’s scriptures about the shepherd, it reminded me of a photo that I took while visiting my godchildren for the first time. It’s a photo of my friend Mike lying on his back with little Sophie on his belly, all cuddly. It was a surprise because Sophie is not a very affectionate child. She is emotionally independent. Mike said it was the first time Sophie was cuddly. Even to this day, this image is stuck in my Continue reading →
Reflection 042620 April 26, 2020
Psalm 116:12-19/ Luke 24:13-35
How We Experience the Divine
Today’s one fact about myself is that, every day, I receive a daily devotional material from the United Church of Christ, our sister church in the United States. This week, I was surprised to find a reflection of Jonah in the whale’s belly. Why suddenly Jonah’s story during this Season of Easter? Jonah was a prophet whom God told to go to Nineveh to convert its residents. Since he didn’t want to go there, he took a ship going in the opposite direction. However, a storm hit, the sailors found out that it was Jonah’s fault, and he was thrown overboard. A whale swallowed him, and he stayed inside the whale’s belly for three days and three nights, during which time Jonah had a spiritual awakening and prayed earnestly. By the time the whale threw him up, he was ready to do God’s work. The minister who wrote this reflection said Jonah’s three days inside the whale was like a time out. Just like Jonah’s time out inside the whale, our quarantine is also like a time out, during which time we should experience a spiritual awakening like Jonah.
Our current situation being stuck at home is a bit like Jesus in the tomb for three days or Jonah inside the whale’s belly for three days. As we saw last Sunday, the first disciples were stuck behind locked doors after their teacher was killed. Just like Jonah had a spiritual awakening and conversion of heart inside the whale, our social distancing period could be a good time for self-reflection and spiritual conversion, a time to transform more and more into the image of Christ.
In today’s gospel story, we met two of the disciples who felt like they were inside the tomb, a whale’s belly, or quarantined from a pandemic. There are certain elements from this story that deserve our attention. The first one is that they did not initially realize that their travel companion was their teacher. So, when did they realize it was Jesus? If you remember our Easter story from the Gospel of John chapter 20, Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus when he called her by her name. In today’s story, the two disciples do two things before they recognized Jesus. First, they invited Jesus to come into the house to stay the night. Second, they broke bread and ate together. This is how one meets the divine; by taking an active measure reaching out to the divine, and then sharing bread with God’s people. Of course, sharing bread is an analogy for sharing our resources, hearts, and time with others. The first step to experiencing the divine is about our relationship with God. We should reach out to God and spend time with God through prayer and meditation. The second step is about our relationship with each other. We are called to be the people of God’s reign; caring for those in need and sharing God’s love with one another. To experience the divine, we should maintain a healthy relationship with both God and God’s people.
Until this pandemic is over, let us safely stay at home like Jonah inside the whale’s belly, and work on our relationship with God. As our relationship with God becomes more and more intimate, the Holy Spirit that lives in us will guide our hearts to reach out to God’s people more. We, who are called to live in God’s kingdom, experience the divine by living by God’s love with all God’s people. Peace be our journey of social isolation in God’s company…
Reflection 041920 Sunday, April, 19, 2020
1 Peter 1:3-9/ John 20:19-31
Believing Without Seeing
Have you ever persevered hardship thanks to the hope and faith for a solution or a relief? When I think about this topic and read today’s gospel story about the disciples meeting the resurrected Jesus, there is scene from my favorite TV show Doctor Who that pops into my head. In this scene, the Doctor and his companion Clara are facing an android race that harvests human body parts to form their bodies. The Doctor disappears, and Clara is left alone to fend for herself. Even in her terror, Clara bravely tries to bluff her way through the imminent threat of death. She tries to tell them that they are in trouble because the Doctor always comes to her rescue, and extends her hand behind her expecting for the Doctor to miraculously appear and take her hand. In that moment, her eyes look like she has 95% faith in the Doctor with 5% of fear and doubt; “I trust him, but what if he doesn’t come on time?” I had a similar experience when I was in Montreal searching for a church position. My study permit was about to expire, so I needed a job and a work permit. After 6 months, I was like Clara in that scene; 95 % of confidence that God will send me a job before my study permit expires, with a 5% fear and doubt. Kimberley United Church offered me a job in the nick of time. Praise be to God! I think a lot of us are similar Continue reading →
Reflection 041220 (Easter Sunday) April 12, 2020
Acts 10:34-43/ John 20:1-18
It feels strange to celebrate Easter in social isolation instead of with our Christian sisters and brothers, as it should be. However, it also feels special to meditate on the resurrection of Jesus as many of God’s people are sick and dying from COVID-19. Also, like the disciples of Jesus during his time of suffering and death, we are scared. It feels like we are living in the period between the death and resurrection of Jesus; scared, sad, and behind closed doors. Spoiler alert for next Sunday: the disciples were behind closed doors and scared when Jesus came to them and said, “Peace be with you.”
This Easter reminds us of how precious life and our relationships are. Easter is about life. The resurrection of Jesus is a metaphor for the life we are called to live as disciples. We need a spiritual revival, which is our resurrection. Learning from our social isolation that makes us cherish all the mundane things and people in our lives that we used to take for granted, let us wake up, come alive again, and cherish life; every moment of our lives. Let us appreciate all our blessings that are so mundane that we don’t usually think about; our relationships and gathering with people in our lives, and ordinary activities from which we are cut out. Let us start living fully, both for ourselves and in our relationships with others. We observe in the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus that his disciples looked for their teacher in the wrong place. They came to the tomb because they knew that he was dead but looks can be deceiving, can’t they? They met the resurrected Jesus when they turned away from the tomb and was able to see clearly. And the joy that Mary experienced when she was finally able to recognize the man in front of her!
This Easter, let us ask ourselves if we are looking for the divine in the right places. Where are we looking for the presence of God? Where are we seeking happiness? There are a lot of attractive things in the world that look worthy of seeking, but are they really? People seek wealth, material comfort, and power. But maybe those things are the tomb of Jesus. Only when we look away from the worldly things and look to the Spirit of God inside us can we encounter the divine and receive God’s guidance. This Lent in my social isolation, I heard God’s voice saying we should rise to the occasion in this crisis and evolve into a better version of humanity; and this is what I am preaching to you. During Peter’s sermon in Acts 10:39, he says we are witnesses to all that Jesus did. As witnesses and followers of Jesus, we should “follow” his beliefs and lifestyle, and “witness” them through our lives. Jesus was all love and compassion because God is. Just as Jesus was all love and compassion, so should we.
I pray that this Easter will teach us to be more compassionate like our teacher Jesus. As we all participate in stopping the pandemic, I wish we will start thinking of and caring for others more as Jesus would have done. God led us to eternal life through the life (and death) and teachings of Jesus. As his followers, we are called to live a life that gives life to the world and its people; a life-giving life. When we fully drink in our blessings and feel the joy and gratitude, we are giving life (to ourselves). When we help someone feel loved in their loneliness, we are giving life. When we help someone feel hope in their despair, we are giving life. This Easter, let us pray for overflowing gratitude for our blessings and compassion for others. Let us celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the true life that God promised us by living a life-giving lifestyle. Love yourselves. Love all God’s creatures as your own. Do not stay silent at social injustice and the suffering of the marginalized. We are witnesses to the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, whom we follow. Let us celebrate his resurrection by reviving our souls and starting to live a life-giving life.
Reflection 040520 (Palm/ Passion Sunday) April 5, 2020
Matthew 21:1-11/ Psalm 31:9-16/ Matthew chapters 26-27
Darkest Before the Dawn
We are going through Lent and Easter in social isolation and fear of the pandemic. As I read the stories of Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem and of his fear, suffering, and death, I feel closer to him than ever. I feel like, thanks to the life of Jesus, God can understand our fears and sufferings. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was greeted with excitement and enthusiasm. The crowd had hopes for him as the powerful saviour of God’s people. When he didn’t turn out to be the political saviour for whom they had been hoping, they turned on him. It led to the arrest, suffering, and death of Jesus. However, those dark times were not the end of the story. The disciples thought they had lost when Jesus died, but wait to see what God does in the end…
This year, I am reading the Lent and Easter scripture readings through our current situation going through the biggest pandemic we have experienced. Things look bleak. This virus is spreading at a scary rate. Look at what’s happening in Italy; it seems like the end of the world. We are all either sick from the virus, dying from it, or scared that it might hit us too. I wonder if Jesus felt similarly as he was getting betrayed and being sentenced to death. Probably, he had a lot worse than us. At least, we are safe at home. And I heard medical professionals say that things would get worse before they get better. We know the saying that it is the darkest before the dawn. This is the message we are hearing from God as we wait for Easter this year in the midst of a pandemic. We are going through dark and scary times, but God who had never forsaken Jesus in his times of darkness will also be with us in our fear and physical isolation. Our suffering is not over, and it is likely to last for quite a while; but even in our darkest hours, God is with us. We are never alone. God brought Jesus back from the dead and out of the tomb. It is the darkest before the dawn. We are patiently waiting for that dawn that is promised to us.
Jesus pleaded with God in fear. He cried out to God on the cross in his great agony, body and soul. It’s okay to cry out in our fear and suffering. In fact, we SHOULD cry out to God. Unload your burdens in your prayers. Then we can confess, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand.” (Psalm 31:14-15a)
Dark times are opportunities to show the best versions of us. After Jesus was arrested, most of his followers fled and scattered out of fear. They abandoned their teacher in his darkest hours. Some women were loyal and brave, though. They kept near Jesus and followed him to where he was executed. During the darkness of World War II and Nazi Europe, seemingly ordinary people became heroes by saving God’s beloved people from persecution and/ or sacrificing themselves for others. We also face a choice in our current darkness. Will we be careless and risk transmitting the virus? Will we be selfish and hoard the toilet paper and hand sanitizer like a lot of people are doing right now? Or will we think of others, pray for them, and help them in their times of need, even though it is our times of need too? It is time to test the power of God’s Spirit in us; let God’s Spirit turn our minds and spirits to sharing God’s love with other.
This coming week, the Holy Week, let us read the story of Jesus’ suffering and death through the eyes of our current situation. And in the darkness, I pray that we will all hear God’s comforting voice, the hope of resurrection.
Reflection 032920 (Lent 5) March 29, 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14/ Romans 8:6-11/ John 11:1-45
Being Spiritually Alive
Have you ever had an experience where you suddenly felt alive? I can think of some of mine off the top of my head. One time was after my first performing arts festival last year. Something clicked inside my brain and suddenly I found myself wanting to achieve more with my piano education. Another time was when I was called into ministry in 2003. It felt like I was born again as a different person. I finally understood God’s purpose for all my experiences that had not made sense until then. I’m sure I’ve had other experiences that I can’t remember right now, and you must also have some of these experiences. Our experiences might be different, but I think all these live-giving and altering experiences make us feel profound joy that is different from mundane joy.
When someone changes completely, we call it a miracle. Miracle is not only turning water into wine or parting the Red Sea. A cold-blooded murderer might repent completely and become a good person. Before I received God’s call in 2003, I didn’t know true joy and happiness. The fact that I can now be happy merely from my relationship with God feels like a miracle. Today’s story in Ezekiel and the Gospel of John tell big dramatic miraculous stories, although Ezekiel’s scene is a vision. People of Israel had lost hope and became spiritually desolate after seemingly never-ending foreign invasions and oppression. They were like the dead and dried up bones. God is sending Ezekiel to bring a message of hope with this vision of dried bones coming alive; hope that God’s people will prosper again. The people of Israel must have thought they needed nothing less than a miracle to be restored as a nation, as God’s nation. God’s message to them through the Prophet Ezekiel is that God is able. We’ve also seen in the Gospel of John what God can do and is willing to do for the love of us. In today’s gospel story, we meet the deep compassion of Jesus as well as his divine power. Jesus wept because his friend was dead. The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead comes from the compassionate love of God. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead with his loving heart. God would raise Jesus from the dead for the love of him, and through him, us who follow him. God’s wants us to live and thrive.
Apostle Paul teaches in the Book of Romans that the Spirit that is in us gives life, as God raised Christ from the dead. Life and resurrection do not happen only through the supernatural phenomenon that we call a miracle. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but none of us probably will; we will die when our time comes. The life and resurrection that we learn from today’s scriptures during this Season of Lent are about our spiritual state. Are we truly alive just because our bodies are alive? We are not truly alive if we don’t know the joy and peace that comes from living with the Spirit of God. What shall we resurrect as we meet Easter and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus? We shall resurrect our spirit with the Spirit of God that breathes into us the heavenly joy and peace; true life. Every fiber of my being came alive when I discovered the joy of performing piano, and when I was called into ministry and I truly felt the love of God for the first time. If we have become complacent in our relationship with God, if we haven’t truly and deeply felt God’s love, this Lent is our chance to let God spiritually revive us. During our social isolation, it is easy to become impatient; we might feel like we are suffocating, being stuck at home for a long period of time. Let God’s spirit be your companion, develop and deepen your relationship with God. And with the Spirit of God, pray for one another, our neighbours who are suffering from the terrible virus, the medical professionals who care for them, truck drivers and grocery workers who provide for our daily needs. Let us use both this Lenten season and the social isolation period to revive our spirits and become closer to God, who will lead us to live more faithfully.
Reflection January 19, 2020 by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
John 1:35-42/ Isaiah 49:1-7
Come and See
Do you know what Netflix is? It’s where we can watch movies or TV shows. When I was thinking of subscribing to Netflix, I was invited to use it for free for a month and then decide if I wanted to keep on. I would only start paying for the subscription fee from the second month. And if during the trial period, I wouldn’t be satisfied with the service, I could cancel it. But Netflix is not the only company that allows testing before selling their service or product. Think of shopping for a car; we get to test drive to see if we like it. It’s because to know something, we have to experience it firsthand. People are the same; we have to experience them to get to know them.
Today, we read the story of Jesus calling his first disciples. Before we look at John’s account Continue reading →
Reflection January 12, 2020 (Baptism of the Lord) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 42:1-9/ Acts 10:34-43/ Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism: Profession and Commitment
Have you ever been married? Have you ever made a vow of any kind? I have been married once, and this is how it happened; “Do you think it’s time?” “Yes, I think it’s time.” There was no marriage proposal. And it was going to be pretty much the same this time, but Attila surprised me with a marriage proposal while we were out at the Last Spike, after we set the wedding date. Nevertheless, it was a lovely surprise. He got down in his knees next to the railway track. Anyway, marriage is a serious commitment, which a lot of people these days avoid. They fear this commitment as if they are joining a gang, and the existing members crack their knuckles and say things like, “Now that you’re one of us, you WILL act like one of us.” Any kind of commitment is a serious business.
As a church minister, I consider baptism and church membership the same way. Not a lot of people want to make the commitment. Today, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus and reflect on our own baptisms, whether we were baptized or not. Baptism is like getting married. A couple can lovingly live with one another all their lives without getting married; it’s an extra step in a long-term relationship where the couple wants to publicly declare their love and commitment for one another. Likewise, one can start and maintain a loving relationship with God without publicly professing this relationship through baptism, or have a loving relationship with a congregation without an official membership. Baptism is Continue reading →