Celebrating this Thanksgiving Day, I want to share a Bible verse and a simple prayer that you may find meaning and inspiring. May God's abundant blessings be with you and your family in this beautiful season of the year.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Giver of life, for sunshine and showers, we give you thanks;
for food and drink, we give you praise; for clothing and shelter,
we bestow our gratitude.
Gather our worries and our burdens this day, and shelter us from fear and despair.
Help us rest assured in your arms, knowing that your loving care is enough.
It is enough. It is enough. Amen.
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
To the humble table of Jesus, you are invited. No matter who you are, no matter where you came from, you are welcome to have a seat with him. It is not a luxurious meal, but just humble bread and wine. Having the bread and wine, you may remember Jesus who gave you his body and blood and how he loves you to the end. Sharing the meal with others, you may taste and see God’s grace upon you and how God’s coming kingdom looks like in the future. To this table, for this meal, Jesus invites everybody and wants to share this astounding story of love. So today I am extending his loving welcome to you and inviting you to the table of Jesus, which we will commemorate and celebrate tomorrow during our World Communion Sunday service. There will be the table full of life and hope, love and grace for you and for all others. Come to the Lord’s table, all you who love him! Come to the Lords table and be at peace!
The Table with No Edges
We will sit down where feet tire from the journey.
We will sit down where grief bends the back.
We will sit down under roofs wrecked by artillery.
We will sit down where cries sound from cracked walls.
We will sit down where heat beats like hammers.
We will sit down where flesh shivers in cold.
We will sit down where bread bakes on thin charcoal.
We will sit down where there is no grain in baked fields.
We will sit down with those who dwell in ashes.
We will sit down in shadow and in light.
We will sit down, making friends out of strangers.
We will sit down, our cup filled with new wine.
We will sit down and let love flow like language.
We will sit down where speech needs no words.
We will sit together at the table with no edges.
We will sit to share one loaf, in Christ’s name, in one world.
© Copyright 2015 by Andrew King
Last July, a photograph made the whole world excited. That was the photo of Pluto. After traveling nearly 3 billion miles over the past nine and a half years, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft finally reached the margins of the solar system and had its rendezvous with Pluto. NASA’s New Frontier program, which has been leading this project, indeed let all humankind encounter with the new frontier of the world. Watching the photos of Pluto, I got amazed at the effort of the scientists who push the limit of human possibility and expand the horizon of human knowledge. In such way, New Horizons and New Frontier are very appropriate names for the spacecraft and the project.
Reflecting on this exploration reading another article with the amazement and wonder, I got a phone call from a funeral home and had a request to officiate a memorial service on Saturday. Having accepted the request, I fell in a strange thought, which might be totally unrelated to the Pluto exploration. I thought, although humans have been able to expand the new border of the world through diverse ways, they have never been able to explore beyond the existential border of humankind. This border, which is still completely unknown and untrodden, is nothing but the border between our life and death. It seems that science remains silent about this border. Human intellect cannot push this border further than it used to be, and we have no technology to send a spacecraft to take a photo of the world beyond this border of life. New horizon and new frontier…we have not been able to find anything like them confronting the border of inescapable and definite human end.
Regarding this border, this frontier, our intellect and reason may not be the proper means of obtaining knowledge. The Bible tells that in order to see beyond our existential border, we need to have faith in God, the Creator, who brings forth all forms of life and is the Lord of the whence and wither of life. Through this special way of faith, we may understand the truth of human life only by grace. The idiom, “seeing is believing,” is not applicable here. Maybe the reversed version of that idiom would be true, “believing is seeing.”
Instead of new horizon or new frontier, there are certainly the words of “a new heaven and a new earth” in the Bible (Revelation 21:1). We do not know what they would be like and when they would come, but we believe in Jesus who arose from the dead and his promise that he will come again and invite all of us to the heavenly banquet when he makes all things new. Looking at the picture of Pluto exposed clearly to our sight and reflecting upon the beauty and mystery of the universe and its new horizons and frontiers today, I hope we may also look into the border of our life and death. And pray gratefully for we have the promise of a new heaven and a new earth and for we know it through our eyes of faith.
Those who believe in the promise for the life everlasting, may God’s border-crossing love and God’s grace beyond any frontiers of the world be with them today. Amen.
Scripture - Please read "Revelation, Chapter 21" today.
For the past five weeks (July 26 – August 23), we took our journey through the Gospel of John Chapter 6 according to the schedule of the Revised Common Lectionary. The key theme of Chapter 6 is the bread of life, and I delivered my sermons in a series that named after it. I tried to bring some fine meditations on the theme, and now whether my effort was enough or not, I leave unto the Lord the rest!
The bread of life comes from Jesus’ famous statement, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). And this statement is the first one of the six “I Am (Ego Eimi)” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. They are as follows:
6:35 - I Am the Bread of Life
8:12 - I Am the Light of the World
10:11 - I Am the Good Shepherd
11:25-26 - I Am the Resurrection and the Life
14:6 - I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life
15:1, 5 - I Am the True Vine
Jesus reveals himself through these “I Am” statements. But by the bread of life statement, by that unique metaphor of “bread,” Jesus especially discloses the fact that he completely offers his own body and blood on the cross as the bread of life for the everlasting life of all; the self-giving, self-denying, and self-sacrificing love of Jesus is the only food that can satisfy spiritual hunger and nurture shadowed human souls.
The Son of God calls himself the ordinary daily food, the bread…and actually becomes the bread for our salvation. What a gracious deed of God! And how precious holy mystery! Thanks be to God.
Leaving behind the sermon series and our journey through the Chapter six of John’s Gospel, there is a short hymn that I would love to share with you. This hymn tremendously inspired me during writing the sermons. The original title of the hymn is Panis Angelicus, which means, “bread of angels.” The words are from Saint Thomas Aquinas who is one of the greatest medieval theologians. I hope you enjoy this hymn today and meditate upon the bread of life further in your life. Click the link below and enjoy it!
May the Bread of Angels Panis angelicus
Become bread for mankind; fit panis hominum;
May the Bread of Heaven put Dat panis cœlicus
To all foreshadowing the end; figuris terminum:
Oh, thing miraculous! O res mirabilis!
This body of God will nourish Manducat Dominum
The poor, the servile, and the humble. Pauper, servus et humilis.
What do you think about this photograph? Isn’t this beautiful? My friend took this great picture several years ago in Boston. Even though he is not a professional photographer, he captures this moment of beauty from his own unique perspective, and the photos taken by him always provide some fresh look of things around our ordinary life. Today, I am sharing the story about the photo that he told me once.
One fine day, he went out for a walk around his apartment. He was with his camera. It is his habit to bring his camera everywhere like many other photographers do. When he first encountered some tulips on his walking, he just ignored them because flowers are so popular as an object among photographers. He thought he couldn’t take any impressive photos from flowers. He just passed them by. On the way back to his apartment, however, an inspiration hit him. He laid down his body on the lawn and looked up the tulips from the bottom. Then, he saw a different look of tulips, which he had never seen before.
In the photograph, the tulips are just ordinary tulips. But what makes them distinctive is the unusual angle of the photo. It was taken not looking down the tulips but looking up. From this bottom-up angle, the fresh beauty of the tulips comes to us. This change of perspective makes a difference.
Today, let us try to see ourselves and people around us from a different point of view like there is a hidden beauty inside, like there is an unrevealed charm. We may have to see us from the bottom and look up others. It would be uneasy practice. However, in so doing, we may then realize how beautiful we are and how wonderful the lives around us are.
Last year I went to Yosemite National Park for vacation. Standing amid the nature was much more than just amazing or spectacular. The sublime scenery filled me with awe. On the second day, I went to the information center and stopped by the gift shop. And there I found a t-shirt with impressive phrases on it. Its title was “Advice from Yosemite.”
- Expand your horizons
- Reach new heights
- Keep a sense of wonder
- Be an inspiration
- Cherish wilderness
- See beauty all around you
- Enjoy life’s peaks and valleys
Which one is your favorite? Mine is “Keep a sense of wonder” because it led me to realize how frequently we are insensitive to the wonder of God’s creation. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate and care for what God has created around us and in us by taking it just for granted.
The Apostle Paul teaches us to see God’s eternal power and divine nature in the creation of the world. He writes in Romans 1:19-20:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”
I believe that many of you already have enjoyed or are planning your vacation in nature. When the beauty and wonder of nature captures you, I pray that you remind yourself of Paul’s words above and find our creator there. And from your heart you will sing How Great Thou Art:
Oh Lord, my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed
Then sings my soul
My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great thou Art
How great thou Art
Then sings my soul
My Saviour, God, to Thee
How great thou Art
How great thou Art
Last March 24th was the day many Christians commemorated the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of Óscar Romero who was the Arch Bishop of San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. Thirty-five years after his assassination at a mass he presided, his prophetic voice still needs to be circulated and heard. One article succinctly describes his life, “During the brutal regime in El Salvador in the 1980s where the military were oppressing the human rights of the citizens, Catholic Archbishop Romero was outspoken in defending the needs and rights of the poor. Romero gave many courageous speeches challenging the United State's support for the Salvadoran government and also calling on soldiers to disobey orders to fire on civilians.”
Becoming God’s microphone
"Each one of you has to be God's microphone. Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is someone who has been baptized... Where is your baptism? You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of workers, in the market. Wherever there is someone who has been baptized, that is where the Church is. There is a prophet there. Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people."
Having incarnational faith
“This is the commitment of being a Christian: following Christ in his incarnation. And if Christ is God in his majesty who becomes a humble man even to dying like a slave on the cross and who lives with the poor, that's what our Christian faith should be like. A Christian who doesn't want to live this commitment of solidarity with the poor is not worthy of being called a Christian.”
Do you know the historical fact that the founders of Mother's Day were two Methodist women? In this week, I read an interesting article titled, "Mother of U.S. Mother’s Day was West Virginia Methodist Ann Jarvis." The article begins with these sentences:
"The celebration of Mother's Day can be traced back to ancient Greece, but the mother of Mother's Day in the United States was Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, the wife of a Methodist pastor in West Virginia. Her daughter, Anna, led a successful campaign in the early 1900s to have Mother's Day recognized as a national holiday."
Isn't that interesting? I was very intrigued and read further the article. But at the end of the article, I found a bitter piece of history, which lets me stop and ponder for a while. It says that Anna, after spent her many years of her life promoting the Mother's Day movement, became an outspoken critic when Mother’s Day got too much commercialized.
Statistics say that 20.7 billion dollars will be spent on moms in honor of Mother's Day. I hope we all can focus on mother’s love in the middle of all that cash and commercialism.
You may check the link below for the video clip that briefly explains this history.
"Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth"
By Jean Janzen, based on the writings of Julian of Norwich
Mothering God, you gave me birth in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, source of every breath, you are my rain, my wind, my sun.
Mothering Christ, you took my form, offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love, your very body for my peace.
Mothering Spirit, nurturing one, in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow until I flower, until I know.
Have a blessed Mother’s day!
Pastor Earl Kim's weekly reflections