Manuscripts from Pastor Daekyung's most recent messages are below:
Witness to the Word - January 13
Text: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Title: You Are Beloved
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Good morning. May you be reminded that you are valued for who you are as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany. We are going to celebrate the manifestation of Christ by remembering the baptism of Jesus, thinking of the meaning of baptism, and reaffirming our baptismal covenant in today’s worship.
When it comes to baptism, we typically recall some stories in the Old Testament: the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters in the beginning; Noah and the great flood; and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. “In these stories, water functions as a double-edged symbol. On the one hand, it gives life – it symbolizes creation, whether of the world or the Hebrew people or newly baptized Christians. On the other hand, it threatens. [At the Red Sea], the Israelites move through water that could drown them at any minute if not held back by the hand of God.”
A baptism ceremony of the early church basically shows that being baptized means being willing to live not only in hope but also in danger. “After three years of study and participation in the life of the community, those who wanted to be baptized would undergo a period of prayer and fasting after which, often in the dark of early Easter morning, they would strip naked and be baptized by total immersion. Then they would be clothed in white garments to symbolize their purity, and be welcomed into the church. In an age when Christians risked martyrdom, such a ceremony conveyed the dangers involved in Christian faith. One comes to new life through at least a symbolic risk of death.”
In short, the noticeable images of baptism are death and resurrection. In other words, when we are baptized, we say good bye to an old way of life and start to walk in a new one.
In the joy of rebirth, we willingly decide to follow Jesus. We gladly choose to live according to God’s will. Now, we are about to go into the world and do whatever God has called us to do. But just then, there is a voice coming from heaven: “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Doing God’s work is important, but it is not the first thing we should do after being born again by God’s grace. Loving God and our neighbor is what we are called to do, but there is one thing that we should remember first. It is the fact that each of us is God’s beloved. First and foremost, we should be aware that we all are precious in God’s sight. We are God’s favorite. We are the apple of God’s eye. It is this voice that is what Jesus heard right after he was baptized by John the Baptist before he started his ministry on earth.
When I ask people if they love themselves, not all people say, “I love myself all the time.” Most people answer that sometimes they love themselves but sometimes they don’t. Yes. We are disappointed with ourselves from time to time. We know we are not perfect. Every now and then, comparing ourselves with others, we are angry with ourselves. We feel helpless occasionally. We find ourselves not having self-confidence. But friends, no matter how many times we feel like that, there is one and the same voice from heaven: “You are beloved.”
“The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard told a story of thieves who broke into a jewelry store and didn’t steal anything; they simply rearranged the price tags. The next morning, the expensive jewelry was sold as junk, and the junk jewelry was sold as expensive. His point is obvious. We live in a world where someone has rearranged the price tags. Nowhere is this switching of price tags more evident than in the area of self-esteem. In our culture, people are valued for how they look, what they can do or even what they have, but rarely for who they are.” No matter how severely Satan attempts to deceive you, remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are important. You are special. You are unique. You are irreplaceable. You are valuable. You are enough. You are amazing. You are originally loved.
In the article “Leading by Naming,” Mark Labberton, [a professor of preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary], wrote about the power of a name. He said: “I can still feel the impact of a musical friend who one day called me ‘musical.’ No one had ever called me that. I didn’t really play an instrument. I was no soloist. Yet … I instantly felt known and loved. . . . [He] noticed, validated, and appreciated something deeply true about me.” Friends, ‘beloved’ is your new name which is God’s great gift. Whether you have been baptized or not, if you believe that you are born anew, your name is ‘beloved.”
Let me conclude the sermon with a story that you may already know because it fits the sermon point.
A well known speaker started his seminar by holding up a [$100] bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this [$100] bill?”
Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this [$100] to one of you but first, let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air.
“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty.
“Now who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air.
“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth [$100]. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes.
You are beloved. Amen.
 . William C. Placher, Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christians Faith (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 184.
1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip. 5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. 6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
Good morning. May you hear the voice of God who calls you to be the light of the world as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today is Epiphany Sunday. The word epiphany means appearance. So, while we celebrate the birth of Jesus during Christmas season, we rejoice in the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the Magi and the baptism of Jesus during this season of Epiphany. When it comes to the word epiphany, you may recall the image of a light bulb turned on. Yes. God who became human is light as Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Let’s see what it means to follow Jesus who is the light of the world through today’s text.
First of all, it will be interesting to check to see how the text is interpreted in the Jewish tradition. As we know, the main image is light. “Arise, shine, for your light has come” (Isaiah 60:1a). But, they understand the phrase like this:
[T]he 7th century Aramaic translation of the prophetic books translates [the verse 1]: “Arise, shine, Jerusalem, for the time of your redemption has come.” [A rabbi of the 11th century] interprets this verse quite differently. He asserts that the phrase [‘your light has come’] refers not to the coming of dawn but rather to the setting of the sun. Consequently, the meaning of the phrase would be: “Your light, namely, the natural light found in this world is about to set, but, in exchange, God’s great light of redemption and joy will come and replace it.” […] In other words, the natural order is about to end, and the light of redemption is on the horizon.
In any case, the phrase “your light has come” means that Israel’s redemption has come.
However, this proclamation of the prophet Isaiah may not have been able to quickly move the hearts of the Israelites who had been downtrodden in exile for long. They may have found it hard to believe that their redemption had arrived because their expectation for the Messiah had been unfulfilled for so many years. Thus, Isaiah encourages them to notice that their new day is already dawning. He inspires them not to feel discouraged about their current situation but to believe that God already started doing something new in their lives. So, an ancient Jewish commentary on the Bible says, “Our Rabbis taught that when the [Messiah] will appear, [the Messiah] will stand on the roof of the Temple and […] will announce to them, to Israel, saying, “Humble ones, the time for your redemption has come, and if you don’t believe it, see […] my light which shines upon you, as it is written [in Isaiah 60:1], “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of God is shining upon you.”
What does this explanation tell us? We know God has saved us by God’s grace. We believe that God is always with us. We want to live a happy life. We also want our families and friends to be happier. But, we suffer physically, mentally, or economically because we are finite. So, we sometimes feel like our lives are filled with darkness. As Isaiah 60:2 says, “[D]arkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” Thus, we from time to time find it difficult to believe that God’s redemption has come. Sometimes, we are not sure if God is working in our lives. But friends, God continually encourages us to be aware that our new day is already dawning. No matter when you feel distressed for whatever reason, please remember that God is always ready to heal us, renew us, and restore us.
Meanwhile, here is another unique Jewish interpretation of the text.
[The ancient Jewish commentary that I mentioned before] has an entirely different take on [the verse 1]. It interprets the word [which is translated as “shine”] not as a command but rather as a noun meaning “My light”, namely, ‘God’s light’. The sentence then becomes anomalous, speaking at first about ‘God’s light’ and then about “your light,” [that is,] Jerusalem’s light […]. This interpretation, of course, makes this phrase self-contradictory – “Arise for My light, for your own light has dawned.” [But the commentary] dispels this problem: […] ‘My children, since My light is your light and your light is My light, let us, both of us together, go and give light to Zion.’” […].
In this [commentary], the redemptive process is a partnership between God and human beings. Through our shared light, the world will be redeemed.
Isn’t it interesting? The last interpretation directs our attention to our light, our response, our action. In other words, it reminds us that we are called to be the light of the world as God is.
Then, what does it mean to be light? It is an awareness of the darkness that is the first step.
Chaim Potok’s book [The] Chosen tells the story of Danny Saunders, the son of a strict Hasidic Jew. For many years Danny’s father, though very human, never speaks to Danny, except when teaching him out of the Talmud. One day the mystery is revealed. Rabbi Saunders explains that God has blessed him with a brilliant son, a boy with a mind like a jewel. When Danny was 4 years old his father saw him reading a book and was frightened. The book described the suffering of a poor Jew, yet Danny enjoyed it!
“There was no soul in my 4-year-old Daniel, there was only a mind”
The rabbi cried to God “What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion… righteousness, strength to suffer and carry pain…”
So Rabbi Saunders followed an ancient Hasidic tradition and brought the boy up in silence, for then “in the silence between us he began to hear the world crying.”
To illuminate the world, we need to take notice of who is groaning and crying out first; to direct our attention to those who are alienated and excluded. As God came to us as light because God saw the darkness in the world, only when we are aware of how dark the world is, we can be light.
Then, what does it mean to let our light shine? Particularly, the Book of Proverbs can answer that question today. Proverbs 6:23 says, “The command is a lamp.” What does this phrase mean? The Hebrew word which is translated as “command” actually has three different meanings: first, the Law of the Lord; second, a good deed; third, companionship. Thus, we can interpret the phrase in light of all of these three meanings. ““Good” is defined as that which [God] wants done with [God’s] universe, and by doing that which [God] wants done, we are bound up with [God] in body, mind and soul.” In short, to let our light shine means to do what God wants us to do hand in hand with God.
We believe that Scripture is the primary source which tells us what God wants to be done with God’s universe. So, reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible are always essential in being the light in the world. We have several Bible study meetings: Children, Youth, and Adult Sunday School every Sunday morning, Thursday Morning Bible study at 10 a.m. in Garst Hall, and Thursday Community Bible study at 5:15 p.m. at Vintage Sisters. And, we are about to start a 4-Week Bible Study on human sexuality next week. Please contact Larry Hauth for more information. Also, we have several Spark Groups in which three to five people are gathered to share food and stories and study God’s Word. Please contact Hope Peckham about Spark Groups. Everyone is welcome to join. Please plan on attending at least one of the meetings this year to be continually reminded of what God wants to be done with you and to keep letting your light shine in the community and the world. In this regard, we are also going to light candles at the end of worship service for the next fourteen weeks through Palm Sunday.
A gentleman was walking one day in the east end of the city of Glasgow. The streets were so narrow, and the houses so high, that little direct sunshine ever reached the houses on one side. The gentleman noticed a ragged, barefooted boy trying, with a small piece of mirror, to catch the sun’s rays and direct them to a certain spot on one of the houses opposite. He became interested in the boy’s earnest efforts. “What are you trying to do, laddie?” he asked. “Do you see yon window up there?” the boy replied. “Well, my wee brother had an accident two years ago, and is always lying on his back in yon room, and it is on the wrong side to get the sunshine, so I always try to catch the light in this wee glass and shine it into his room.”
Friends, I believe that this story summarizes today’s sermon. Be the light in the darkness. “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” Amen.
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Title: The Women, Magi, Shepherds
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Good morning. May you find comfort and encouragement in knowing that God always loves you and wants to work with you as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
During this season of Advent and Christmas, we had an opportunity to delve into the mysterious event of incarnation which is what the Christmas story is all about. The incarnation tells us about God’s unimaginable welcome and a human’s thorough obedience which were revealed through Jesus Christ. And it ultimately reminds us that we share the same humanity with Christ Jesus, so we are and will be beautiful as God is. This is the great news of salvation for us all. We hear the great news through the great story of Jesus’ birth.
But, surprisingly enough, the people appearing in the great story were not ones who were considered to be great. First, we encounter some women. Most of all, a woman named Mary is at the very center of the story. She conceived a baby by the Holy Spirit. This is reflected in our affirmation of faith. And, she has been venerated by Christians, especially by Catholics. But, in real-life situations, “[t]he first result was scandal – her fiancé wanted to disown her. “This holy virgin,” in Luther’s words, “celebrated by all the prophets, was judged by her own husband to be a loose woman.”” It is a poor woman that was at the core of the great story.
The Gospel of Matthew starts the Christmas story with the genealogy of Jesus. We see four women’s names besides Mary among the majority of male ancestors’ names. Do you remember who they were?
Tamar’s story comes from Genesis 38: Judah had promised her that she would marry his son, and then broke his promise. So she disguised herself as a prostitute and tricked Judah into fathering twins by her. Perhaps to the surprise of most modern readers, she is judged to be in the right, and her twins become the ancestors of two tribal lines in Israel. Rahab was a prostitute who hid Joshua’s first spies in Israel. Ruth was a despised foreigner who married into the Israelite people but became the great grandmother of King David. Bathsheba became the wife of David only after he had her husband killed in battle, but she gave birth to Solomon.
It is the names of some dishonorable women that were included in the great story.
The second figures are Magi. We know that they took a long journey to see and worship the baby Jesus and presented him with gold, myrrh, and frankincense as a gift. But, we don’t know exactly where they were from. At least, they were not Jews. They were just foreigners. They didn’t even serve Yahweh. They are considered as priests of the ancient Persian religion. It is the foreign people with a different religion that told the world about the great story of Jesus’ birth.
The third characters are shepherds. When it comes to a shepherd, we may recall a romantic scene. But, according to scholars, the people in Jesus’ time would not have thought like us. “Shepherds were thoroughly disreputable. They were poor, and they were always trying to graze their sheep on someone else’s property; [an ancient text] even lists them among the categories of people who may not testify in court, because their word simply cannot be trusted. Yet it is to them that angels appear with news of the Messiah’s birth, they who will thus be God’s witnesses.” Yes. It is disreputable shepherds that were a part of the great story.
Compared with these groups of people, how are those with power and authority described in the great Christmas story? One of the most obvious examples is Herod the Great. He is just depicted as a tyrant who ordered his soldiers to massacre all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger.
These lowly outsiders remind us that God used the least among people to proclaim the great story to everyone. We don’t know why but that is the way God works as we see in the Bible. Luke shows it to us through Mary’s lips: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for [God] has been mindful of the humble state of [God’s] servant. […] [God] has performed mighty deeds with [God’s] arm; [God] has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. [God] has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. [God] has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:46-53). And, it is this Mary’s song that reverberates in today’s text: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before [God]” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Looking back upon this year, we sometimes tasted moments of success and sometimes moments of failure. We from time to time felt like we were important people or unimportant ones depending on the situation. I hope the coming year brings more happiness to you than this year. However, we may experience failure again. We may still face situations in which we feel like we are insignificant people. But, whenever you feel like that, I pray that you remember that God used the disreputable people in the great Christmas story. God always cherishes you and wants to work with you to accomplish God’s will in the world. “Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, knew the secret of strength through weakness. Complimented once by a friend on the impact of the mission, Hudson answered, “It seemed to me that God looked over the whole world to find a [person] who was weak enough to do [God’s] work, and when [God] at last found me, [God] said, ‘He is weak enough—he’ll do.’ All God’s giants have been weak people who did great things for God because they reckoned on [God’s] being with them.”” I know that you have been faithfully doing God’s work even in difficult circumstances to make the community and the world more beautiful. I believe that you were able to do that because you looked upon God and relied on God’s strength.
I would like to conclude the very last sermon of the year by mentioning several biblical figures who were weak but became an instrument in the hands of God. You may have heard this before. But, it also fits today’s message:
Sometimes do you ever wonder why God called you to do something for [God]? There are many reasons why God shouldn’t have called you, or me, or anyone else for that matter, but God doesn’t wait until we are perfect to call us. Think of all those God used. You’re in good company if you think you aren’t ready for God to use. Abraham lied. Sarah laughed at God’s promises. David’s armor didn’t fit. […] Peter was afraid of death. Lazarus was dead. John was self-righteous. […] Paul was a murderer. So was Moses. Jonah ran from God. Miriam was a gossip. Gideon and Thomas both doubted. Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal. Elijah was burned out. John the Baptist was a loudmouth. […] Noah got drunk. Did I mention Moses had a short fuse? So did Peter, Paul and lots of folks. But God doesn’t hire and fire like most bosses because [God is] more like our [parents] than a boss. [God] doesn’t look at financial gain or loss. [God is] not prejudiced or partial, nor sassy and brassy, nor deaf to our cry. [God is] not blind to our faults. [God’s] gifts to us are free. We could do wonderful things for others and still not be wonderful ourselves. Satan says, “You’re not worthy!” Jesus says, “So what? I AM.” Satan looks back and sees our mistakes. God looks back and sees the Cross.
In short, “[i]t is an embarrassed woman, some strange foreigners, and some disreputable shepherds who seem to be those with whom and through whom God is working in the birth of [Christ Jesus] who is also God.” In other words, those who were not great played an important role in the great Christmas story. God is making the great story of salvation continually in the world. And God wants to use you. Are you willing to keep allowing God to work with you in the ongoing God’s great story?
 . William C. Placher, Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christian Faith (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 53.