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 →
Reflection January 5, 2020 (Epiphany) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 60:1-6/ Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14/ Matthew 2:1-12
The Light of God That Came to Us
On Christmas Eve, I confessed that I have a mild OCD, and because of that the Nativity display bothers me; and that I can’t mix two different types of cereal in one bowl. Today’s personal confession is that my eyesight is getting worse, and I have cataract growing in one eye, which eventually will require a surgery. Since I can’t see very clearly even with my glasses on, driving after dark is a challenge, especially if the ground is wet. One evening, Attila was coming back from his work trip. It was late, he was too tired to drive to Armstrong where his company is and back home, and there was too much snow for him to park his huge truck by the side of the road in front of our place. I had to go to the truck stop and bring him home. It was dark and the road was wet, reflecting light and making it very difficult for me Continue reading →
Christmas Eve 2019 Message (The Birth of God’s Reign) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Today, I would like to start with truth or false. Let’s test your biblical knowledge, shall we? First, baby Jesus was born in a stable; truth or false? There were three wise men; truth or false? Wise men came to the stable to see baby Jesus; truth or false? The nativity story is in all four gospels; true or false? Not a lot of people read the Bible closely; their biblical knowledge is based on the Bible stories they hear, which may or may not be accurate. For those of you who don’t worship with me Sunday mornings, every week, I reveal one thing about myself so my congregation can get to know me. Today’s one fact about myself is that I have a mild OCD. My books have to be organized alphabetically according to the authors’ names. My father mixes Corn Flakes and Frosty Flakes to control the sweetness level, but I cannot mix two different cereals in one bowl. As you can guess, trail mixes make me feel uncomfortable. The reason why I am confessing my OCD today is because the nativity scene makes me feel uncomfortable because it’s not Continue reading →
Reflection – December 22, 2019 (Advent 4) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 7:10-16/ Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19/ Matthew 1:18-25
The Love of God – Emmanuel
Have you ever heard of this saying, “Friends don’t let friends (blank)”? Friends don’t let friend make stupid decisions, for example. I’ve also heard a choir director say, “Choir directors don’t let choir members clap on one and three.” When I was studying to become a teacher at University of New Brunswick, my best friend was a guy named Siva. One day, I told my friends about a stupid decision I made. All the other friends were like, “It’s none of my business; I accept your decision,” but Siva got mad at me. He couldn’t condone my stupid decision. That’s when I knew he was a true pal, that he truly loved me.
But it’s not only between friends; parents shouldn’t let their children get everything they want. Those of you who are parents will know the challenge of making difficult or unpleasant decisions for your children because it’s good for them. You may force feed vegetables as they cry in protest; my son Cedric does that a lot because he’s a picky eater. Or you might watch them attempt their first step and fall. You don’t only do pleasant things with your children because doing what is best for them is love, even the difficult, unpleasant, and heartbreaking ones; overindulging is not love.
Today, we heard the word “Emmanuel” more than once in our scripture readings. The Chosen One of God Continue reading →
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 Continue reading →
Reflection 120819 (Advent 2) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 11:1-10/ Romans 15:7-13/ Matthew 3:1-12
Righteousness and Peace Will Kiss
I think I’ve already told you this, but Doctor Who is my favorite TV show of all times. The protagonist of the show who is simply called “the Doctor” travels in space and time in his space and time machine that looks like an old English police phone box. Because he travels in the universe, he meets all kinds of alien races, promoting open-mindedness and the idea that diversity is beautiful. One of the alien races the Doctor meets along the journey is the most invaded species in the universe. The people of that planet who look like the Whoville people from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, whenever there is a foreign invasion, receive the invaders without fighting. Their motto is “Resistance is futile”, and their national anthem is “Glory to (blank),” to insert the name of their invaders. They don’t resist, so there is no bloodshed to crush the rebels, but is this peace really peace? Not doing anything when one is oppressed and mistreated, is this peace?
The scriptural lesson on peace that we already learned so far is that peace should be based on justice. We examined the image of life-destroying weapons turning into life-giving farming tools as an analogy for peace. Today, we read about another image of peace from the Book of Isaiah. In this image, the wolf is with the lamb, the leopard is with the young goat, the cow is with the bear, and a baby plays with a dangerous snake. The cow and the bear graze together, and the lion eats straw; although, no, this text is not a justifiable proof for vegans to argue that we were created to be vegans. We should not take this “carnivores-eating-plants” thing Continue reading →
Reflection 120119 (Advent 1) by Rev Sun-Young (Sunny) Kim
Isaiah 2:1-5/ Romans 13:11-14/ Matthew 24:36-44
Hope: Waiting for the Divine
Do you or have you ever had a wish list? Wish list contains things we want or things we want to do, now or some day. For me, one object I want is a beautiful vintage publication of a Jane Austen’s novel. One of the many things I would like to do in my lifetime is to learn another language. German is first on my list, but I also want to learn Hungarian and Arabic because my husband is Hungarian and my best friend is from the Middle East. I also want the power to teleport, but that might require a lot of effort and determination, don’t you think? Now, these are long term wishes; what do you want for Christmas? I’m sure, just like me, there are a lot of things you want to have and do. We often talk about hopes and dreams, but the theme of first Advent Sunday is about a different kind of hope. Wish and hope are different. We will learn that hope comes from God. Continue reading →