The Wizard of Oz, this great old movie came out in 1939. And ever since, it has become many people’s all-time favorite until now. The movie begins with Dorothytrying to get her aunt and uncle, and other farmhands to share her story about an incident related to her dog, Toto. But all of them are too busy to listen to her, so her aunt says, “Find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble.” So Dorothy walks off by herself, musing to Toto, “Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain...” Right there, watching the sky, she begins singing the greatest song of all time, “Somewhere over the rainbow way up high…” And the song describes the place where “skies are blue,” where “dreams really do come true,” and where “troubles melt like lemon drops.” This song, just like the movie, is just unforgettable not just for its beautiful melody but also for its message that deeply evokes human emotion of longing and dreaming for a perfect place beyond our troublesome ordinary life. No wonder, this song is ranked number one on the “Songs of the Century” list.
It’s true that sometimes we wish to go somewhere beyond here… somewhere beyond our hectic life full of duties and burdens, and somewhere always joyous and worry-free. We Christians know that there certainly is such a place promised to the people of faith. We may call it the heaven or the coming Kingdom of God where we can live in perfect peace and eternal rest, where we have boundless joy and no mundane struggles. Yes, that would be the place that Christians would imagine while singing, “Over the rainbow.”
Today we are celebrating the ascension of Jesus Christ. We read the Scriptures testifying that a cloud takes him out of the disciples’ sight. And the Apostles’ Creed affirms that Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God until he will come again to judge the living and the dead. What does it mean to us that Jesus ascended to heaven? Does it mean that we only imagine and yearn for the perfect place in heaven to where the resurrected Jesus is lifted up? That we only dream of the new kingdom to come with Jesus some day? I don’t think that’s everything about this Ascension Sunday. Rather, the Lord’s Ascension reminds us of the task we are responsible for, the task that Jesus leaves to us so we must earnestly take while we await Jesus’ coming again. Yes, we are here not just waiting for somewhere like Oz, over the rainbow. So today, we better listen to two voices in the Scriptures guiding us during this in-between time.
The First voice we better listen to is the voice of two mysterious persons in white robes standing by the disciples at Jesus’ ascension. Watching their resurrected Lord and Savior take off heavenward, the disciples are confused. They want to know where Jesus is going and when he would come back and restore the kingdom to Israel. But Jesus says, “It is not for you to know, but wait until you receive the Holy Spirit.” And then he is gone. The disciples are standing there looking up, staring at the sky, wishing to see some sign, or to hear some more words of assurance, or to find at least a glimpse of the kingdom of God in heaven. Instead, the disciples heard an awakening voice from two persons in white robes, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). I think what they were saying was: “Don’t just be the spectators, but be the disciples to follow Jesus and prepare the way of coming Christ. Don’t just look up, but look around and do your work of faith as Jesus taught you.”
The second voice we must listen to is the voice of Jesus. As you may know, it is widely accepted that the same author wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts. So they are two volumes in one series. The readings for today show us that Luke concludes Jesus’ story at the end of his Gospel and starts a new story about early Christians’ lives that we see in Acts. Between these two stories, Jesus’ ascension is like a bridge. Luke writes the same narrative in both books, because it’s important and because at the moment of ascension, Jesus leaves us his very final commandments. What are the commandments? Let us read them together. “You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49). “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Here, if we put together the common thread in those two versions of Jesus’s final words, it’d be like this, “Be my witnesses in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Be my witnesses—don’t just passively wait and long for somewhere to come, but bear witness to what you already saw and what you have come to believe.Jesus is asking, be my witness and tell others, “the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48). So go and be my witnesses till the ends of the earth.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this Ascension of the Lord Sunday, we have to listen to these voices, the voices that call us into our Christian vocation: to be his witness and to bring heavenly joy and peace here and now. If heaven is the place where we dwell with Jesus, and if the kingdom of heaven is where Jesus reigns, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring that heavenly place on earth from within our gathering. So stop looking up somewhere above the chimney tops and somewhere over the rainbow. Jesus is right here with us in his Spirit always and we are here to follow him. Until Jesus comes in his glory to judge the living and the dead, and we shall be lifted up to somewhere beyond…until then, let us earnestly work to make God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. In the power of the Holy Spirit, be my witness in all you do, and do it all to the glory of God…Jesus commands us today.
As the Gospel reading for last Sunday did, the reading for today takes us to the upper room in the night when Jesus was betrayed. There, something so significant, so unforgettable, happens. Prior to his departure, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and shows them how to serve one another with the self-emptying love. Then, Jesus sits with the disciples, shares bread and wine with them, and teaches them how to be one with God and with one another in his self-giving love. And the night grows late. The time of Jesus’ suffering and death is coming very close. Now Jesus delivers his last words to his disciples. What does he say in his last words, in the so-called “farewell speech”? The center of his message is again, love. In the night, Jesus literally pours out his love upon his disciples by washing their feet, by sharing bread and wine, and by delivering the last words. How wonderful it is that someone’s last words and deeds are just about love!
Truly, Jesus is the love incarnate, the living embodiment of divine love. And thus, for the followers of Jesus, there is nothing more important than to understand this love of Jesus, and to practice it in the way that we are called to do. Last week, we reflected on the farewell speech and learned that this love that Jesus is teaching is neither a fuzzy emotion nor an abstract idea. But this love has three key features; Jesus’ love is just love, self-giving love, and fruitful love. And today, as we are looking at the later part of the speech, we find another aspect of love. That is…for those who follow Jesus, love is not simply a valuable or beautiful thing that we choose to do in our lives. But love sometimes is a commandment, actually, the foremost commandment for us to obeyand to abide by.
I believe Jesus really means it, when he says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). And the First Letter of John emphasizes this as it writes,“For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments” (1 John 5:3). But I know…when we hear the words “commandment” and especially, “obedience,” we feel a little tight and uncomfortable. We think that love is something we better do from our heart and at our free will—not by obeying a certain commandment. And we somehow agree that mature love fully comes true only when we are free and independent. Freedom and independence…these virtues seem quite far from the virtue of obedience.
Yes, I understand… Jesus seems quite authoritative about love here. And we, as reasonable and autonomous human beings, have our rights to doubt and raise questions on him now. Right? But here, listen carefully. We should remember… following Jesus is to do more than just the things that make perfect sense to us. Sometimes, following Jesus includes to obey his commandment even when it looks absurd and difficult to us, even when there is no clear reason to do so, and even when it goes against our desire and will. Yes, this obedient way of following Jesus, keeping his commandment of love, is easier said than done.
One day I heard somebody sharing his parenthood experiences. He talked about the most challenging time in raising his kid. At that moment, I immediately thought it would be the time when his child was just born. You know I see my friends with a newborn baby, and lack of sleep is just their life. And newborns are so weak and small that parents always need to give extra care to them. Right? But his answer was different from mine. In retrospect, he said, the hardest time was when his child finally began to say “no” to everything and ask “why” on everything. Do you agree?
Today, I feel like we do the same to Jesus. Sometimes we say so many no-s to Jesus’ call to follow him and ask so many why-s to Jesus’ simple command to love, even though our heavenly parent never leads us to anything harmful or wrong. We refuse and hesitate to take just one step closer to Jesus until we have understandable reasons to do so. We ask Jesus to convince us first before we obey his commandment of love against our desire, against our will. In so doing, we might be giving Jesus the hardest time. But I also understand…we can get easily skeptical about following Jesus when it’s really difficult to just obey his commandment of love. Certainly, some people around us are too bad and evil to love; some situations are too insulting and hurtful to us to show any kind of love. Yes, how can we obey Jesus every time? How can we stop saying “no” and asking “why” every time? What would Jesus say?
Let us find some advice from our Lord Jesus. Today, after the upper room gathering, we see Jesus go into the garden of Gethsemane to pray.
As a true human, Jesus deeply grieves in face of his time of trial and death. The Gospels tell us, in his anguish, Jesus throws himself on the ground and prays earnestly until his sweat becomes like great drops of blood falling down on the ground (Luke 22:44; Matthew 26:38). True, Jesus himself also finds it very difficult to obey God’s will, so he struggles and says, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). But that was not the end. Jesus keeps praying hard instead of saying, “No, I do not want to take up the cross for those sinful humans who never change their ways and turn back to you.” Jesus keeps praying hard, instead of asking, “Why do I have to die for those ungrateful humans who never deserve your grace?” Then, in his prayer, Jesus takes his obedient heart again, “yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Sisters and brothers in Christ, following Jesus is hard. And obeying his commandment of love is even harder. But whenever we find it difficult to love and embrace someone, whenever we find a situation that is almost impossible for us to overcome with love, instead of saying no, why don’t we pray first even just briefly? Then, I am sure that in our prayer, we will see Jesus who gives us an obedient and loving heart again. And whenever our hearts filled with doubts and confusions, instead of just asking why, let us pray first. Then, I am sure that in our prayer, we will find Jesus who encourages us to set aside our reasonable and logical mind for a while and to be faithful in obeying his words single-mindedly. And in our moments of obedience, I am so sure that we will experience this mystery of faith: the more obedient we are to Jesus, the freer we become in his truth; the more obedient we are to his commandment of love, the better we understand the mind of Christ.
On the night in which he gives himself up for us, Jesus calls us to be love-abiding Christians. Jesus simply commands his disciples to obey him, to love him by living as he teaches them. So in remembrance of him who was obedient to the point of death for our new life, let us obey his commandment of love even when we think we cannot. Simply obey…that is the way, perhaps the only way, to grow our faith. May the Holy Spirit be with us as we follow Jesus every moment to be love-abiding Christians. Amen.
The Gospel reading for today takes us to the night of Jesus’ betrayal when Jesus delivered his so-called “Farewell Speech” or “Upper Room Discourse.” This speech is extended from Chapter 13 to 17 in John’s Gospel. In this message, Jesus now prepares his way of his passion and death. And at the same time, he helps the disciples be ready as he reminds themselves of his teachings and tells them how to live their life without his physical presence. So, in a certain way, this message is a kind of Jesus’ will prior to his death. Nobody writes unimportant things in the will. When someone writes a will, he/she would take a silent time, reflect deeply on what to include, and try to deliver the most significant things from the bottom of heart. In this sense, Jesus’ farewell speech essentially includes the things that Jesus truly wants us to know and do. This is a lengthy farewell speech, and we may assume that Jesus would convey many lessons in detail, but actually most of his teachings simply revolve around one word, one core word. What is the word? Yes, it is love.
As the believers of Jesus, we firmly believe that Jesus is the love incarnate, the embodiment of the divine love, and our religion and faith is all about love. We are gathered here today because of that love. Right? Even in John’s First Letter, we see that love is not only the center of Christian life but also who God is. In the letter, John simply affirms, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It doesn’t say, God loves, but God “is” love. Clearly, it tells us that love is not just one of many things that God does. But God is Love. Love indeed is what God is, what Jesus embodies and teaches, and therefore, what we should do in this world. Of course, there should be no doubt about the truth that love is the supreme value to those who follow Jesus.
But here comes one question. Then, “what kind” of love is the love we are talking about? We can say that this love is not just a fuzzy feeling or an abstract idea. But what kind of love is God’s love, the Christ-like love, that we should carry out in our lives? As Methodists, we believe that we are on our journey to reach our goal of faith, Christian perfection. This Christian perfection means the state of our heart that is habitually filled with the love for God and for neighbors. But how can we reach such perfection in love if we are not clear about what kind of love we should live out?
The inspiring voice of John in today’s scripture readings guides us to the answers and to draw a concrete picture of the divine love. What kind of love is God’s love? From today’s readings, we can find three features of God’s love. First, the Gospel reading says that God’s love is just love. God is love, and God is the God of justice. For God, we are sinners; there are times when we are not in good communion with God; we are evil enough to be judged. So although God loves us, God does judge us by the justice of God. And the judgment must be followed by due punishment. In the Gospel reading, Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower” (John 15:1). And Jesus says that we are the branches of the vine, and it means that we are connected to Jesus and thus one Body of Christ. But it doesn’t mean that we are now immune to God’s judgment. Rather, according to Jesus, God, the vine grower, is the one who “removes” every branch that bears no fruit and “prunes” every branch to make it bear more fruit (John 15:2). Even though Jesus, the true vine, takes us in as his own branches, we are always under God’s judgement, the vine grower’s cutting and pruning. Indeed, God, who is love, is just.
But wait a moment here. Doesn’t it sound a little weird? On the one hand, God, who is love, dearly cares for us and saves us. On the other hand, God, who is justice, solemnly judges us and punishes us. It seems like God has two sides, two very contradictory sides in Godself. How can God be love and justice at the same? How can redemption and punishment work at the same time? To love us justly, God doesn’t just wait until we repent and become totally pure and sinless, which is impossible. To love us justly, God has justified us, changed us, the sinful, into the justified through Jesus who suffered in our place. God, in Jesus Christ, has taken our sins to the cross and died for our sake. So here, we can see the second character of God’s love: God’s love is self-giving love. Jesus’ sacrificial love on the cross liberates us from our bondage to sin and death and thus, if we believe in him, we can be justified and free. Each one of us is a receiver of this enormous grace. In his letter, John tells us, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). And he continues to say, if we abide in God’s love, “we may have boldness on the day of judgment,” because love casts out our fear for punishment (1 John 4:17-18).
Now, the self-giving love of Jesus has opened a way of grace for us to be in a restored relationship with God, to live in God. As the branches on the vine, we are connected to Christ and nurtured in faith, in love. We abide in Christ. Then, what? Do we just abide in Jesus and do nothing? No. We are called to abide in Jesus in order to bear fruits of love. We Methodists believe, once we are justified by God’s grace we are called to the journey of sanctification until we reach Christian perfection. Once we are loved and so abide in Christ, we are also called to love others as Jesus loves us. The vine branches should bear fruits of love—joy, hope, faith, endurance, courage, self-denial, and many others. Then, lastly, we can say, God’s love is fruitful love.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, I hope you to remember that when we say God is love, we say just love, self-giving love, and fruitful love. With this love God loved us first. And today God is asking us, with this just, self-giving, and fruitful love, we should love one another. It is so true, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). So we may love justly. As we love one another, let us address any inequities or sins to our common attention so that we may repent and receive God’s forgiveness. We may love in a self-giving way. As we love one another, let us love unconditionally, forgive and embrace, serve others first, empty ourselves. Also, we may love fruitfully. As we love one another, let us abide in Jesus, live in the presence of the Lord together, yield fruits of faith, hope, and more love. Let us love as he first loved us. Let us love as we abide in God’s love that is just, self-giving, and fruitful. Amen.
“Are you in good hands?” Have you ever heard this line from a television commercial? Yes, many of you would be familiar with this from the famous commercial of Allstate, an insurance company. In the commercial, this person, Dennis Haysbert, comes out at the end and always asks in his assuring baritone voice, “Are you in good hands?”
It’s such a great punch line that sounds compelling to customers like us. And because this “in good hands” expression is quite effective, the company even makes the good hands their trademark paired with the slogan, “You’re in good hands.” I think this is a great marketing strategy to set this ideal image of the company that would take an extra measure of care and service for customers. But how good are they in reality? I believe we are old enough to know that most of insurance companies keep us in their good hands as long as we pay the bills and as far as we don’t have any preexisting conditions or liability issues with our properties. True, with an insurance company, we’re in good hands “conditionally.”
Today’s Gospel reading has no catchy line like this commercial. It simply invites us to hear Jesus’ loving voice saying, “I am the good shepherd.” This good shepherd, with his good hands, leads the sheep to green pastures and beside still waters as the well-known Psalm 23 describes. But how good is the good shepherd actually? Jesus answers the question in all clarity: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Then Jesus contrasts the good shepherd to a “hired hand.” What’s the difference between them? Jesus says, “The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away” (John 10:12). While the good shepherd gives up his life because of his love for the sheep, a hired hand takes care of his own life and interest first. So here it becomes clear: a hired hand only conditionally takes care of us, the sheep; however, the good shepherd, with his good hands of grace, embraces us and cares for us regardless of our conditions or personal issues. True, with Jesus our good shepherd, we’re in good hands “unconditionally.”
Through our lives, how many times do we feel like we are in good hands—not in hired hands? How many relationships we have now are unconditional—not conditional? Last week I thought about the unconditional good hands I had in my life. And immediately, the images of my grandmother’s hands came into my mind. I remember her hands, rough and yet warm; they held my little hands and guided me to her humble house through a country road at a beautiful starry night. I remember her hands, wounded and bruised by demanding daily labor on a farmland; yet they always patted me consolingly on my shoulder and healed my heart. I remember her cooking hands grinding beans in a millstone and making the best and the most comforting tofu in the world. And I remember her praying hands folded together every morning, and they must be folded this morning again to pray for her grandson preaching today on the other side of the world. I dearly miss her good hands. Yes, I really do.
People say, to be a grown-up means to be independent from others’ hands. We need to take care of ourselves and make our own ways by our own hands. And we better learn quickly how to deal with all the tough conditions of life and how to survive through all the hired-hand relationships in this real world. But, sometimes, deep inside our hearts, don’t we miss some good hands? The good hands of our family and friends, the good hands that we can depend on, the good hands that help us carry our burdens even for a little while, the good hands that unconditionally encourage us, nudge us, and just silently hold our hands when we are down?
We miss them dearly, but unfortunately, sometimes those good hands are just out of our reach. And sometimes we just can’t hold them anymore in this world. Then, at those moments, when we deeply feel the need of good hands, what shall we do? Sisters and brothers in Christ, at those moments, as we look for the good hands in our lives, let us not just look “around” us first, but rather, let us look “inside” us first. Why? It’s because I’m so sure that inside of every believer’s heart, there already are the good hands of Jesus our Lord that comfort and guide us. Yes, by the unconditional grace of Jesus and through our faith in him, we are already in good hands of the Lord our good shepherd.
So all we need to do is just to be mindful of the abiding presence of the good shepherd in our lives, and hold his good hands with the belief that they will lead us to green pastures and beside still waters. The Lord’s hands are the saving hands; there we see the mark of the nails, the mark he got when he laid down his life on the cross for our salvation. These good hands are the protecting hands; no one, no wolf, can snatch us or scatter us out of his hands (John 10:12).
Sometimes, there may be no green pastures and still waters right next to us. But Jesus is truly our shepherd who trudges through the rocky hills with us in search of a patch of grass. We sometimes have to follow him through the harsh wilderness and the darkest valley. But Jesus is truly our good shepherd who unconditionally cares about us and stays with us at the closest distance through all the hidden dangers and challenges. Our good shepherd is always on our side, guiding us through every fluctuation and phase of our life—either good or bad. With him, we truly are in good hands.
Today, here in our worship service, we are invited to look inside, to be awakened to the abiding presence of the good shepherd in our lives, and to hold his good hands in faith. Look inside your heart and your lives. You are already in good hands of our good shepherd. So reach in and hold his good hands to live a new life. Then, reach out and hold others’ hands to be their good hands, to share the love of Jesus with them. Are you in good hands? The Lord is our shepherd. Let us entrust our lives to his good hands. Amen.
Have you ever seen any kid who hates animated movies? I haven’t seen one yet. Most kids love watching them and I was not an exception. But there was no cable TV as such back then, so I always felt that I couldn’t watch enough. One day, I heard great news. In my church, a library newly opened and there was a bookshelf full of VCRs. I was exhilarated and since then, I came home with one or two VCRs every Sunday. I still clearly remember my favorite animated movie series that I rented from the library. It’s called “The Bible Time Travelers.” As the title tells, it’s about a group of children traveling back to the past by using their time machine. What they do is to find famous biblical figures and get to involve in their historical events. It was really fun to watch.
Recently, my fond memories of this animated movie occurred to me as I was reading today’s Gospel reading. Here we see again the disbelieving disciples who doubted Jesus’ resurrection even after they meet Jesus and see his wounds. How come they can’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection even after they meet him in person? I asked… and I thought, like the movie, if I were able to travel back and meet the resurrected Jesus in person like the disciples, I would definitely believe in the resurrection forever without any doubt. Why? Because then, I would really witness the resurrection as a historical event. But I know it’s impossible. And more importantly, I know it’s not necessary. It’s not necessary at all for me to prove the resurrection as a historical fact in order to believe it.
In every Easter season, you’d meet some people who always ask, “Did the resurrection really happen? How can you believe it’s really true?” And even we, the followers of Jesus Christ, can’t deny that some similar questions arise from deep inside of our minds. True, we sometimes doubt, and I think it’s natural. But today, I would like to share one wisdom with you, one wisdom we better remember whenever we encounter those questions regarding the historicity or factuality of the resurrection. And it’s very simple. That is, our faith doesn’t need historical verification to prove the authenticity of the resurrection. Faith is not like our knowledge. Our faith in the resurrection is very different from knowing about one plus one equals two or about Abraham Lincoln. Why? It’s because our faith is not a result of human reason or historical evidence. But it is the result of being personally met by the living Christ in our lives. The resurrected Jesus who comes to us and gives us new life here and now… no human knowledge can prove this holy mystery we experience.
Even though we don’t have to historically prove our faith, Christians, including myself, never deny that the resurrection was historically true. Look at the history of Christianity. Something must have happened. Something incredible must have happened and turned the disheartened, disillusioned, and fearful disciples crouching behind locked doors into the great apostles who preached, witnessed, suffered, and even died for the sake of Jesus and his good news. Something groundbreaking must have happened and intruded in among the life of Paul and early Christians and radically changed them and enabled them to endure all the persecutions and oppressions. 
But again, the wisdom we should remember today is… that our faith in the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t really need historical verification. How come? It’s because the resurrection of Jesus is still happening even now, and it will continuously happen in the future. Surely, it’s foolish to ask historical evidence for the live event that always happens in our hearts and in our church. Yes, the resurrected Christ is with us. Our Christian faith affirms that we died with him on the cross and we live again with him to the new life. Because he lives again, we can be the new creation redeemed by his love and grace. The resurrection happens in our lives, every time we die to ourselves and live for Christ, every time we empty our ego and embody Christ’s love, every time we deny our will and live out Christ’s will. Yes, the resurrection happens here and now. And we don’t need a time machine to meet our risen Lord. We can look into our hearts and see the risen Lord come to our lives, touch our hearts, grow our faith and empower us to love one another as he loves us. Within our hearts, he lives indeed.
Rev. Alfred H. Ackley, writer of the famous hymn, “He Lives,” was asked a question by a young Jewish student at a revival meeting.
The bold question was, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Rev. Ackley began to explain how that Jesus was alive. He said, “He Lives! I tell you; He is not dead, but lives here and now! Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.” A few weeks later, in the morning of Easter Sunday in 1932, Rev. Ackley was preparing for his a worship service. As he was shaving, he tuned on the radio to hear a special Easter broadcast. “Good morning!” The well-known preacher began. “It’s Easter! You know folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned, his body could be as dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, his truth goes marching on!” Rev. Ackley was mad. “It’s a lie!” He anyway had to go to his church. On that Easter Sunday, he fervently preached on the resurrection. But at the end of the day, he still felt that he had not yet said everything he wanted to say. So that very night, Rev. Ackley wrote the words, and then composed the melody just as it appears in our hymnal today.
In the hymn, he testifies, “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” Sisters and brothers in Christ, in this beautiful season of Easter, as you meditate on the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in your lives, I hope and pray that you may remember and hold onto this wisdom… our faith in the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t depend on mere historical proof. Does our faith in our risen Christ fill our lives with joy and hope, comfort and strength? Does our faith in the everlasting Christ empower us to carry on through any hardships in life? Does our faith in the new life enable us to overcome even the power of evil and death? Then, we surely know Jesus Christ lives within our hearts, and that’s how people around us will know the authenticity of our faith in our risen Lord. May the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead always be with us and lead us to keep this faith, and may the risen Christ continue to make our lives the greatest proof of the resurrection always. Amen.
 Willam Willimon, Will Willimon’s Lectionary Sermon Resource, Year B, Part 1(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017), 268-269.
 The story is from two books: Carlton R. Young, Companion to The United Methodist Hymnal(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993), 391. George W. Sanville, Forty Gospel Hymn Stories(Winona Lake, IN: Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Co, 1943), 34.And two online resources: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-he-lives
Jesus died on the cross, and the disciples locked themselves in a house. The Gospel says that they did it “for the fear of the Jews.” I have no idea whose house it was or where the house was. But for sure, they gathered together in that house, shut the door tightly, and perhaps sealed the window too, so that they couldn’t be noticed by anyone around. And they stayed like that for three days. As I read today’s Gospel reading last week, I just couldn’t help imagining what they would have done and how they would have felt in the house for those three days.
I imagine that the house was filled with heavy air and deadly silence. There, the disciples had to talk to one another with muffled voices and sometimes held their breath when someone knocked on the door. They were totally locked in the house with their seriously wounded hearts. Yes, they were the ones who betrayed Jesus, their friend and the Lord. They helplessly left him alone and couldn’t do anything for him. Even though they heard what Mary Magdalene testified, “I have seen the Lord,” they couldn’t believe it and there was nothing they could do but remaining in the house (John 20:18). The light of Easter hasn’t crossed the threshold of the house.
The disciples try to deny and forget the suffocating tragedy to pull themselves together and mend their broken hearts. However, in the house, they can’t even breathe freely. They are in short of breath whenever they remind themselves of the miserable fact that as the disciples of Jesus the crucified, they are also suspected of the possible rebels and criminals now. They can’t even breathe freely. Their chest feel tight whenever they feel so worried and confused as they agonize over how to live on without Jesus, their breath of life. And in the house, their wounds can’t be healed. Rather, they get hurt more and more whenever they think about what happened to Jesus on Friday and the way of his horrible death. Their wounds can’t be healed. Their hearts are weighed down with the intense emotions of remorse and sadness. And they know they will never be free from these heavy feelings haunting them.
In the house, the disciples lock themselves in—not just their bodies but also their souls. But into this very house, the shadowy place of heavy breath and painful wounds, Jesus enters. He comes in through the locked door. He comes and says, “Peace be with you.” (20:19) As if nothing serious has happened, he greets them, “shalom.” But, the disciples cannot immediately recognize him. The Gospel tells us that only after Jesus showed them his wounds, “Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (20:20) And here what Jesus does to his disciples is very significant. Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (20:22). Jesus breathed on them. His breath of life, the breath of the Holy Spirit, liberates them, and lets them breathe freely, lets them truly breathe in the love of Jesus Christ again and breathe out his peace and joy. Jesus breathes the Spirit into their heavy hearts. And their hearts are instantly unlocked and the wave of Easter joy finally comes into them.
Into the house, Jesus comes not only once. But he comes again for Thomas who was not there when Jesus first visited the disciples. The Gospel writes that even after hearing the witness of Mary Magdalene and the testimonies of other disciples, Thomas says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (20:25). A week after, when the disciples including Thomas gather again in the house, Jesus visits them again. And at the very moment of this encounter, Jesus shows Thomas his wounds and asks him to put his finger and hand in them. Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God” (20:27). By touching the wounds of Jesus, the mark of everlasting love, the unhealed wounds of Thomas are healed. When Jesus’ wounds meet the disciples’ wounds, when his traces of self-sacrificing love meet the disciples’ broken hearts, there is healing. Through this healing, the disciples become made whole one more time.
In today’s Gospel story, we see the unfathomable love of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who finds the disciples first after his resurrection. And Jesus personally comes to them again when they need him most. The breath of the Holy Spirit Jesus breathes and the wounds of self-giving love he carries on his resurrected body, indeed, liberate the disciples from the house, from the place of heavy breath and painful wounds and mend their hearts. Even after his resurrection, Jesus continues his ministry and once again, he saves their souls with his love and encourages them to rise up with a new assurance of faith and fresh vision.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, as we live our lives, there may be days of despair and sorrow, the days when we lose our faith, the days when we are deeply wounded and can’t breathe. In those days, like the disciples, we may think that Jesus is not here with us anymore, and we may lock ourselves in our own places of silence and darkness. But I truly believe that in those days and into those places, Jesus will come. He will surely come, no matter how tightly we locked the door of our hearts, no matter how firmly we close our spiritual window. The resurrected Jesus will come with the light of Easter. The doors and windows are not a problem, he will pass through them to come into our hearts. And he will breathe into us the Spirit of life, the Spirit of the living God, and revive our hearts. He will show us his sacred wounds and reconnect us to his everlasting love that conquers even the fearful power of death. Whenever his breath meets our breath, whenever his wounds meet our wounds, the true healing, the true revival, the true resurrection of our souls will always happen within our lives. Can you believe it?
So Easter people, raise your voices and tell others that Jesus will come and visit all who believe in his love. And he will liberate us from the shadows, restore our brokenness to breathe freely, and heal our wounds with his self-giving love. Amen.
“March for Our Lives.” You may have heard of this great demonstration that took place in many cities last Saturday, March 24th. It was initially planned and organized by the student survivors of mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. And it became one of the largest protests in American history. What the students demanded was simple and clear. “Let us fight for our lives. Let us live, rather than be killed by guns.” I think we better listen to this cry in all seriousness as a call to change our society where gun violence and mass shooting become normalcy in our daily lives.
After the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting, I read a terrifying article on NBC News. It says, more Americans have died from gunshots in the last 50 years than in all of the wars in the whole American history. “Since 1968, more than 1.5 million Americans have died in gun-related incidents, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, approximately 1.2 million service members have been killed in every war in U.S. history, according to estimates from the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Can you believe this? America is truly waging the most destructive war against itself. 1.5 million! And this horrifying number is ever increasing at this very moment.
As a way of making a change to this grave situation, the students courageously marched on for life. “Why does this tragedy happen over and over again?” “What’s the solution to end this misery?” When people asked aimless questions and had pointless discussions, when we were in grief and didn’t know what to do, when politicians and lawmakers never acted for change but only sent their thoughts and prayers, the students from Parkland, Florida marched on for the precious, God-given, life of all of us.
And today, on this beautiful Easter Sunday, I see, there is a clear reason for us, Christians, to also advocate life against the pervasive culture of gun violence that has erected massive tombs around us. Yes, we also have a reason to uphold life against this era of mass shooting that has turned God’s vineyard of life into a burial ground. And here is the reason: we believe in a very special life that saves lives, empowers lives, and gives a firm assurance of new life. We believe in the robust life that has conquered the power of death, the everlasting life that has been raised and broken free even from the tomb, the new life that has become an unquenchable hope for all people’s lives on the earth. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus is our ultimate reason to fight the good fight of faith in this troubled world. And the resurrection of Jesus is our reason to take hold of the light of life and be living proof of resurrection in this world, living proof of the power of life here and now.
For this very reason, therefore, we are called today to uphold life by testifying to Jesus who is resurrection and life. Today’s Gospel reading tells us the story of three women disciples. At early dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb of Jesus. They were the most faithful followers of Jesus who stayed beside Jesus along his trial to his crucifixion. They were deeply troubled when they saw the stone, which had once sealed the tomb, was now rolled away. And they were shocked as they entered the tomb and found that Jesus was not there. Instead, they encountered a young man in a white robe. He said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:6-7). They went out and fled from the tomb. They were scared and amazed.
Anyhow, the core of the message that the messenger delivered is simple and clear. “Go and tell.” Jesus is risen. So leave this tomb right now; go and tell the disciples and all the others that the death has been conquered and our life has become worth living with a great hope in the victory of our risen Lord. Go and tell it to those who live their lives under the power of death. Tell them, Jesus lives; Jesus wins. Go and tell it to those who live in darkness, in despair and distress, in fear and anxiety. Tell them, Jesus will set you free from your bondage. Go and tell it to those families and friends of the victims of violence. Tell them, up from the grave he arose. Go and tell. Live your lives anew in the light of resurrection. Save lives and empower lives in Jesus’ name. Yes, this is our call today. And to live out this call, we, the Easter people, should raise our voices today.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, today, Jesus is calling us to uphold life and be the living proof of resurrection to the end of our lives. In his book, Strength for the Journey, Rev. Peter J. Gomes writes, “Indeed, the greatest argument for the validity of the Christian life is the life of a Christian: we are the arguments for the resurrection; we are the living roots for the existence of God” (p. 281). Are we living our life as the argument for the resurrection here? Are we living our lives as the living root and proof of the power of undefeated life now? Let us go and tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and testify to his light of life in us, so that this light can shine on in this world. Go and tell! Share life and love with one another, and together let us fight against the pervasive power of death in this world. Jesus lives, so let him live in us! Jesus lives, so let his power of resurrection abound in our life! Go and tell. Christ, indeed, is risen today. Hallelujah! Amen.
Today is the day, the day of the triumphal entry. Jesus enters into Jerusalem and people praise his name. The crowd shouts, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10) The crowd is excited and so sure that Jesus is the one, the Messiah, the mighty leader who can immediately turn their unjust world upside down—take the kingdom back from the Romans, liberate them from the oppression, and restore their glorious days in the coming new kingdom of justice and peace.
But honestly, Jesus’ entry was not exactly a triumphal one. In fact, it was quite far from the “triumphal” entry. The crowd of Jesus’ days knew well what a triumphal entry meant in the Roman world and how it looked like. The so-called “Roman Triumph” was a spectacular and extravagant ceremony. It was a public show-off celebrating a success of a military commander who led Roman forces to victory or successfully completed a foreign war. On the day of his triumphal entry, the commander wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal robe that made him look like a near-divine person. And he rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome with the array of his army, captives, and the spoils of his war.
Compared to this magnificent triumphal entry, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was just a poor, small town parade. Of course, Jesus didn’t wear all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal robe to show off his divinity. He was just in his humble cloths that may have been worn out through his long and rough journey to Jerusalem. There was never a four-horse chariot as such for Jesus to ride. He only asked his disciples to bring a donkey…a poor little donkey for a ride! Jesus had no army to display his power. He only had his disciples, just a disorderly bunch including a rebel, a tax collector, and many Galilean fishermen.
As I imagine the day of Jesus’ entry, I’m quite confident that the crowd couldn’t find any triumphant features from Jesus and his disciples. Instead, his entry was lowly. I think they were very frustrated. But they were somehow still cheering and keeping their expectations because they heard so many stories about Jesus’ miracles and great things he had done. But, as we know, it didn’t take too long for them to turn their back from Jesus completely. As soon as the crowd realized that their expectations would never be met by Jesus, as soon as they knew that Jesus could never be that kind of leader they wanted and waited for, some of them just returned to their mundane lives, some of them got infuriated and shouted before Pilate, “Crucify him!” To this crowd, Jesus was no longer ‘Jesus the mighty’ or ‘Jesus the victor’. He could be called ‘Jesus the humble’ or ‘Jesus the little.’ And the crowd…finally, all of them left Jesus, as he walked his way to be ‘Jesus the crucified.’
Even though the crowd despised Jesus and left him, some people still stayed with Jesus. They were people without power, without honor. They were just little people. But the Gospel of Mark doesn’t overlook them. Mark gives us at least a brief sketch of these little people. Here, I’m talking about the two disciples who were sent into a village to get a donkey for Jesus. Although they didn’t understand why Jesus wanted a donkey as his transportation—not a grand four-horse chariot, they anyway obeyed Jesus. And through this obedience, they prepared the way of him. And I’m also talking about Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. He was just a passer-by, but he was pulled out of the crowd to carry the cross for Jesus. Although he was compelled to do so, he certainly shared Jesus’ burden that day. And I shouldn’t forget to tell you about the faithful women disciples of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. They had been the sincere helpers of Jesus since his days in Galilee. They had been following him all the way to Jerusalem and keeping Jesus’ side even at the moment of his crucifixion. Contrastingly from the crowd, these little people didn’t impose their own desires on Jesus or see him as they wanted him to be. They just followed Jesus or stayed around him. So when Jesus needed someone, it was these people who could serve him even in little ways.
On this Palm Sunday, as we enter into Holy Week, I hope and pray that we ask ourselves these questions in all seriousness: Where am I standing? “Am I standing among the crowd now?” Or “Am I standing beside Jesus?” “Just like the crowd, am I asking Jesus to be my super hero, asking him to make something triumphal and spectacular in my life?” Or “Am I standing beside Jesus and preparing his way even in a little way, although I don’t understand his way fully, although I may get burdened to bear his cross, although for now I may see only the suffering way of Calvary?” “Where am I standing now?”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, this week, let us stay away from the crowd and stay close to Jesus a little more. Whenever we want our ways to be the ways of triumphal procession, whenever we want Jesus to change our lives in the way we are pleased, let us stop there and think about the little people who closely served Jesus. And let us do little things for Jesus. We can say a little prayer for those who need it; or share some food with the people around us; or participate in our church’s ministry; or call someone who is in illness or you haven’t seen for a while. We can show a little kindness to our friends and families. I believe these little things we do in the name of Jesus…even though they don’t receive a good recognition or reward, I am sure that they can be great steps for God’s mission to advance. Where are you standing now? Let us stay closer to Jesus and follow him. And let us focus more on what we can do for Jesus even in our little ways than what we want from Jesus. In our little ways, in this Holy Week, let us pave his great entry into this world, into our church, into more people’s life and heart, and prepare the way of his coming Kingdom on earth. Amen.
Two Sundays ago, I shared with you a prayer request for my grandmother. At that time, she went unconscious after a stroke. She’s ninety-three, and the doctor said there was not much time left for her. So my family had to prepare for her funeral. But incredibly, she recovered her consciousness and is now fully back to her life. Thanks be to God.
While my grandmother was unconscious, I thought more about her weaving the pieces of my memories of her and her life stories I’ve heard. Like most Koreans in her generation, my grandmother’s life reflects the tragic modern history of Korea. During the Japanese occupation, my grandfather was forcibly taken to a coal mine. And so many people like him died there from harsh conditions of the forced-labor camps. So, my grandmother had to take care of her children by herself. Luckily, my grandfather escaped one day and came back to the family, but soon Korean War separated them once more. Although he survived again, he was not like before with many traumas and inner wounds. With no special skills, my grandmother made her living by cultivating a small farmland with him in a deep rural area. That was her life.
I heard how much she struggled to live—she had to travel by foot village to village to sell some small goods carrying her baby on her back, she helplessly lost her two children during the war, and she fed her family working day and night as a peasant. In my memory, she always toils away in a field; her back is badly hunched for the intensive labor, and her rough hands and feet are deformed. At a single glance, anyone can tell that life has been tough for her.
True, people may see my grandmother’s life as a pathetic life with deficiency, with tragic events, with no desirable achievement. But no matter how they see it, I am so sure that her life has been a great life, a beautiful life, because the life she has lived is the life of genuine faith. Through her uncertain journey, she has learned one thing for sure: how to live by faith—how to trust God, and how to entrust her life to God. It’s been nothing but this faith that has enabled my grandmother to find contentment in poverty, to bear hope in trouble, and to cultivate joy in suffering. And I am also so sure that her faith will continue to let her live her life with gratitude no matter how many days are left for her here, and some day, it will lead her way to the Lord beyond death.
While she went unconscious, I reflected on her life and legacy, and I asked to myself, “What is the most important thing in life?” “What does really matter?” Our achievements, honor, trophies, financial portfolios, the number of publications, the number of zeros in our salary? Not at all, I could easily answer. When we stand before death, none of them really matters. Among many uncertainties in life, the most unpredictable uncertainty of all is death. Our time of death will surely come, and nobody can escape from this last passage of life on earth. So if we look at our lives from the viewpoint of death, what really matters in life is nothing but our faith in God. Indeed, faith is the only thing that matters, and the life most well lived is the life of faith, the life that is entrusted to God by faith.
Then, why? What’s the reason that our faith in God only matters in our lives? I believe, it’s because our God is the one who promises new days and new life when we are in uncertain time and when we confront dead ends in our lives. Let’s look at today’s Hebrew Bible reading. The Prophet Jeremiah is delivering God’s word to the people of Israel living in Babylon for about seventy years. After Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem, many people were held hostage and brought to Babylon. And for the past seventy years, the people of Israel have gradually lost their dignity and identity as God’s people. In a foreign land, as captives, they went through all kinds of discriminations, hardships, and toils we can possibly imagine. To this people, Jeremiah asks one thing: keep your faith in God, because God promises, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33). Live a life of faith in whatever circumstances you are in. God is the one who will bring new days and new life to you beyond all uncertainties and dead ends in your life… Jeremiah assures the people of Israel in Babylon and assures us living our own troubled life today.
Seeing Jesus in today’s Gospel reading, I find another reason why our faith matters the most in our lives. It’s because Jesus is the one who actually experienced suffering and death as the same human like us and on our behalf. The God who humbles Godself to be like us, shares the same human experience with us, and opens up the way beyond suffering and death in Jesus Christ…I am sure that we can trust this God, this God of incarnate love. In the Gospel story, Jesus knows that his time of death approaching inexorably toward him. When some curious Greeks come to see Jesus, he speaks of himself and his life as a grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies in order to bear much fruit (John 12:24). Here we find the story of our God who wins victory, not through the conventional means of power and control, but through suffering and death, through the way of the cross. Some people may see this as a shameful tragedy, the complete failure, but Christians know that it is God’s great victory over sin and death; it is God’s incredible way of paving a way to salvation for us. Yes, we can trust God.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, when we are in trouble, when we walk on our lives’ uncertain ways, when we sometimes face the power of death holding dominion over us, let’s keep the faith. Let’s hold onto faith one more time. Truly, faith is what matters, nothing else. Let us trust God and entrust our life to God because God will bring us new days and new life, and because God even suffered and died just like us to open up the heavenward way for us. As we keep our faith, we will be able to see our lives through the eyes of faith. Then we will realize, no matter where life takes us, God is always there even in our valleys of the shadow of the death. And no matter what people see, our lives can be great and beautiful in our daily walking with Jesus. So let us rejoice and be glad as God gives us the gift of grace and enables us live the life of faith. And let us walk by faith not by sight. Amen.
When I was a kid, I loved going to Vacation Bible School every summer. I used to bring my friends with me, and together, we had a lot of fun doing many activities. Among those many activities, I remember one simple and meaningful activity. That was called “the game of trust.” It’s like a blindfold game played by a group of three.
In the group, two persons become the navigators and the other the follower. But the follower needs to cover the eyes with a blindfold while the navigators guide him/her to a destination. On the way, the group meets a maze with obstacles, steps, and walls. So the navigators must be very attentive and carefully guide the follower. And the follower should trust and hold onto the navigators to get to the destination safely.
In reality, however, this activity didn’t go as the teachers expected. My friends and I, we were just a bunch of mischievous kids who were always more than ready to play a prank on each other. So what do you expect from these kids when they have a prime chance to do anything to their friends wearing a blindfold? As you can imagine, my friends had a good time leading me to bump against a wall and trip over obstacles on purpose. And of course, I did the same to them too. Yes, we had a lot of fun. And because it was so funny that I can still recall what this activity was all about. The whole point of the game was about the trust—most importantly, our trust in God. Playing the follower, we got to think about how important it is to trust God when we cannot see anything. Playing the navigator, we got to feel how God closely guides us and cares for us when we walk on an uncertain way.
For sure, it was a fun and meaningful activity for kids. But as I thought about the game last week, I found that if we could do it now, it would be also quite meaningful and even more relevant to us, grown-ups. It would give us a great opportunity to reflect on our trust in God when we walk in darkness, when we cannot see any possibility like we are wearing a blindfold. Indeed, the longer we live our lives, the more challenges we face in trusting God and the more doubts we have about our faith. Kids may just play this game of trust at Vacation Bible School, but grown-up believers would realize that our whole life is, to a certain degree, the game of trust full of walls and obstacles.
In today’s Hebrew Bible reading, we see the people of Israel who are tired of their uncertain journey in the wilderness after the exodus. They complain to God and Moses that they cannot trust God anymore, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food” (Numbers 21:5). This is not their first time. They have spoken against God many times before. And one time God even appeared at the tabernacle and said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11-12). God’s argument makes good sense here. How can the people of Israel possibly complain and not trust God? They witnessed God’s mighty power to liberate them from the slavery in Egypt; they saw and walked on the dry ground through the middle of the sea; they experienced close guidance of God in the wilderness. How can they possibly complain and not trust God? We may ask. And some of us may think it is right for God to punish them by sending poisonous serpents to bite them. Yes, they seem to deserve it.
However, as we read their story, we should not forget that they were not a group of unfaithful or disloyal people; they were ordinary people just like us. Yes, they experienced all kinds of miracles, but they have been wandering around the wilderness for forty years—not forty days. You would probably think that the Promised Land is really far from Egypt. But surprisingly, it’s less than 400 miles. Google Maps tells us that it takes about six days to travel by foot. Nonetheless, they had to spend forty years in the wilderness. (4) Look at this route of their travel.
They wandered and took the longest possible roundabout route. Anyway, the people of Israel finally arrived the edge of the Promised Land, the Mount Hor. They couldn’t wait any longer. They were ready to take their blindfold off and see the long-awaited destination. But at this mountain, God asks them to go around again. And that was it. They lost their mind and lost their faith.
On our journey of faith, we, like this people of Israel, experience some moments when we want to throw in the towel, give up everything, and just walk out. When we continuously meet tragedies and crises, experience fears, and uncertainties in our lives, when we are deeply hurt by someone, when there seems no hope of change, when we feel that God doesn’t answer our prayers, when our joy gets overwhelmed by our duties, when there is no spiritual renewal in our lives but only wandering in the wilderness, we lose our trust in God. We say, “I am done,” “I am sick of doing this.” At these moments of despair, what can we do? How can we hold onto our faith?
At those moments, I hope we remind ourselves of the simple game of trust. If we compare our life to the game of trust, we must be the followers who should wear a blindfold. True, as humans, we live with a certain kind of blindfold blocking our sight. Life is always uncertain and the future is always unforeseeable. We don’t know what’s going to happen and we don’t know how our journey would unfold. But anyway, the game is on already. We have to take our steps. So it doesn’t really help us to focus on the fact that we cannot see. There will be more fear, anxiety, and despair that overwhelm us and stop us from moving forward. This same thing happened to the people of Israel.
What can we do then? One thing we can do is…to shift our focus away from what we cannot see, from the unknown obstacles and walls on our uncertain way, and then, try to focus on the things that we can surely see. As Christians, we see, there is the Navigator beside us, the navigator who provide us the guiding arms. We see, whatever we are going through, this Navigator, our God is always with us. And we see, this God loves us and gives us the everlasting light through Jesus Christ. Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Sisters and brothers in Christ, along life’s uncertain journey, we may have many challenges, and we may lose our trust in God. But that’s the moment when we need to shift our focus from what we cannot see to what we can see. And that’s the moment when we need to see the lifted Jesus who eternally assures God’s love for us, and God’s presence in our lives. Begin from what we can surely see. From there, we will be able to take our step forward with courage and faith again. And I am sure that as we trust our Navigator, we will find confidence and joy in our hearts. So let us trust the Lord leaning on the everlasting arms always. Amen.