A History of Faith – 190th Anniversary Sunday & All Saints Sunday (Psalm 124) (Hebrews 11:1-3) (John 10:11-15)
Today we are celebrating the 190th Anniversary of our church on this All Saints Sunday. This is truly the day that the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it! Once again, I welcome you all in the name of Christ. But for today, if you expected an awesome guest preacher, I’m sorry. Here’s your ordinary preacher, Earl Kim, again. It is always my great joy and honor to preach on this pulpit every Sunday, but it is such a blessing for me to deliver the sermon today as we celebrate the remarkable journey of this church for 190 years.
This past week was very special to me. I spent much time discovering, reading, and organizing our church’s historical materials, and it was such a meaningful and inspirational time getting to know more about this church’s rich history. I followed the path of earnest Christian endeavors for mission and ministry for the community and also for the world. I encountered great milestones set by the saints who had passionately run their own race before us and passed the mantle of faith on to us. My heart was warmed up not just once but many times. And today I would like to share with you the great stories of the faithful forerunners, extraordinary saints, in our church history.
As I already mentioned in many other occasions, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. John Raleigh Mott (May 25, 1865 – January 31, 1955) was a member of our church.
When I first heard about this from the late Rev. Charles Germany, I was so surprised, because Dr. Mott is one of the most significant Protestant church leaders in the early 20th century. I even wrote a paper on him. I found this Year Book published in November 1919, and you can see his name in the resident membership record. He lived in Montclair from 1900 to 1926 at 75 Midland Avenue, so two blocks up from here.During his days, Dr. John Mott made a great influence on the worldwide mission of Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) as he served the positions of a general secretary and a president for over 22 years. Also, he led the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, established The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and took the position of the presiding officer at the historic World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910. All these remarkable works generated a great momentum for large-scale mission and ecumenical movement in the early 20th century. Later, he involved in the formation of the World Council of Churches, and the Council elected him as the lifelong honorary President. Because of his extensive influence on world mission and Christian unity, at age 81, in 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Historians evaluate him as “the most widely traveled and universally trusted Christian leader of his time.” How great it is that his spirit of evangelism was nurtured right here in this church, empowered Christian mission movements, and transformed the hearts of many! We shall always remember this name, Dr. John R. Mott.
Another extraordinary saint in our history is Sherwood Eddy(1871–1963). It is not sure whether he was our member or not. But he sent his mission report from China to our church in 1934; I think he could he either a member of this church or supported by the church. He was a leading American Protestant missionary who worked among and for the poor in Asia—India, Japan, and China. Today I brought his letter dated October 24, 1934. Let me read a part to you. “China is tragic and yet glorious in the midst of a vast and stupendous process of transition from the ancient and medieval into the modern world…In the first five cities of North China the total attendance at all meetings has been over 46,000 of whom 1,783 have registered as enquirers to study Christianity or have made decisions for the Christian life…China is staggering today in the midst of a terrific crisis…I am ‘not ashamed’ of the Christian dynamic nor of what it has done and is doing for the moral and spiritual regeneration of China.” How great it is that our church supported this great person of faith and contributed to the Christian mission in Asia! We shall always remember our church’s precious dedication to the world mission.
Last week I newly found that our church supported two more missionaries who were active in the Chengdu area of China. They are Joseph Beech and James Maxson Yard. You can see their names on the cover of these old bulletins, under the category “missionaries.” From my research, I learned that Joseph Beech served as the president of Chengdu College from 1905 to 1914. And in 1914, he became one of the founders of the West China Union University, along with James Maxon Yard. These two missionaries from our church played a major role in establishing the university that is still standing in China. The university even has a museum for Joseph Beech. How great it is that our church made such fruits and marked a great Christian presence in China! We shall always remember this wonderful missionary legacy that also calls us today to bring the good news to the outside the church walls.
Don’t we have such a great heritage of faith? In celebration of our anniversary, we should be grateful that we have these extraordinary ancestors of faith. They are truly faithful saints of God. But today, I would like to introduce another set of extraordinary people of faith we should not forget. Who are they? I can proudly answer: they are all of you, sitting right here in this sanctuary at this moment. Yes, all of us! You may say, “Pastor, I’m not even close to those giants of faith you just talked about.” Well, I’m not asking you to go out and organize worldwide conferences, move to another country for mission, or found a Christian university now. But I believe, what made all those missionaries extraordinary saints of God was not exactly their achievements, but for sure, their unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd. Wherever they were, they believed that this Good Shepherd was leading them. Whatever they did, they put their trust in the Lord. And I am glad and thankful that I can see the same faith in all of you, in each one of you.
So today, we shall remember that the history of our church has continued not only by those renowned Christians but also by many faithful Christians including you all who have dedicated lives to God and followed Jesus in their own mission fields—at the church, workplaces, at home, in the communities and neighborhoods. I know all of you have dedicated your life to the church with sincere faith. Every work of faith may not be rewarded by a Nobel Prize or any great recognition of the world, but I surely believe that every work of faith we do in Jesus’ name will be greatly rewarded in heaven.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, we’ve come this far by faith, yes, truly, we’ve come this far by faith. I am so proud of us, and I’m sure, God is so pleased with us. It doesn’t mean that our journey was without struggles, hardships, and ups and downs. Indeed, we faced many of them. But through the wilderness, we never lost our faith. We kept paving our way and kept moving on our journey slowly but surely. I strongly feel like today’s Psalm is our song, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side.” If it had not been for the Lord on our side, where would we be? Through our journey, we believed that God is always on our side, and the Lord is our Good Shepherd. Without this faith, we wouldn’t be able to come this far. And it is this very faith that is writing a new chapter of our church’s history now because our faith will be the assurance of things we are hoping for and the conviction of things we have not seen yet. Therefore, on this 190thAnniversary Sunday and All Saints Day, let us renew our faithful hearts to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who always walks and travels besides us, whose self-giving love even led him to lay down his life for us. And let us reaffirm our faith in Christ’s coming kingdom where we shall all rejoice in the true communion with God and with all the saints at Jesus’ heavenly banquet. Amen.