MANUSCRIPTS FROM PASTOR DAEKYUNG'S MOST RECENT SERMONS ARE BELOW:
Witness to the Word - Feb. 10
Text: Luke 5:1-11 Title: The Pressing Crowd
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Good morning. May you be reminded again that you are important and are an instrument of God’s love as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today, we started See All the People worship series. But, it is still connected to the Greater Gifts worship series in which we were reminded of the three gifts we received from God: first, the new name “beloved”; second, unique spiritual gifts; and third, each of us gathered here. Now, the new worship series invites us to turn our mind to everyone we meet in our daily lives. And, we are also able to use our talents and gifts for them as well.
The changing of direction is related to the nature of the church. I already shared my understanding of the church when I started to serve at Burlington UMC last July. Do you remember it? I know. It’s long, long ago. The church is not a building but people who follow Jesus. And the people are gathered and scattered repeatedly. The followers of Jesus are gathered to be reminded of how amazing God’s grace is and what God wants us to do. They are also scattered to the school, to the office, and to home to live as a church there. God’s love flows from them to everyone they see in their ordinary lives.
Today’s text conjures up the image of Jesus who is seeing people. Verse 1 says, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” Can you visualize it? The famous image of large amounts of fish breaking the nets that we can see in verse 6 also reminds us of the crowd pressing in on Jesus. Jesus went to the lake, climbed the mountain, or walked the street. He was always surrounded by the multitude there. And, he saw them.
But, what does it mean to see for Jesus? Is it just to run into somebody, say hello to him or her, and continue on one’s way? “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:30-32). Did Jesus see the people around him in that manner? Absolutely no.
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’” (Luke 10:33-35). This is the way Jesus saw the crowd.
“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (Luke 13:11-13). The disciples of Jesus also copied him: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (Acts 3:1-8).
To sum up, Jesus saw people and healed, comforted, and loved them.
We also see people every day. We see people at the donut shop, Hoover’s, the library, the school, the office, the museum, etc. If we know what gifts we have, we can use them not only for our church family but also for all the people we see in our daily lives. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, said, “The world is my parish.” “In the early days of the Methodist movement, many in the established church thought the Methodists were crossing lines, holding meetings in places where there was already an established church. Pretty soon, Wesley found himself unwelcome to preach in the parishes of the pastors of his day. [So,] Wesley responded by saying, “The world is my parish,” reinforcing his mission “to spread scriptural holiness across the land.”” Wesley is not talking about competing with other churches. Rather, he is calling, [as Jesus was,] “all persons to receive God’s gift of salvation and follow in the way of love and service” wherever they are, wherever they go. We the followers of Jesus are called to serve all the people we see whether we are gathered or scattered.
A Christian has a unique identity. “In the Letter to Diognetus, which dates back to the second century A.D., an anonymous writer describes a strange people who are in the world but not of the world: Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect. … They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the unusual form of their own citizenship.” We Christians belong to this world. But, we are not ones who allow the world to define ourselves based on whether or not we reach a particular standard that the world sets. Rather, we are ones who let God define us. God has invited us to have an eternal fellowship with God regardless of who we are. And God sees us as we really are and says, “You are my beloved.”
Now, we as those who are sent into the world are called to let everyone we see know that wonderful fact as well. We are called to let all we meet know that God invites them to have an eternal fellowship with God regardless of who they are. We are called to tell them that God sees them as they really are and also regards them as God’s beloved. This is how I understand evangelism. We generally consider it as bringing people to the church. It is right. But more fundamentally, evangelism is to proclaim the good news to the world through words and deeds. In other words, it is to let God’s unfathomable love flow freely from us to all the people we see.
There are many ways in which we reach out to the community with God’s love. We have already engaged in outreach ministries deeply. Especially, as we are celebrating Scouting Ministries Sunday today, we are reminded that “[t]he scouting program can be an effective, intentional outreach ministry of the local church. … Nurturing children, teens, and families through outreach and evangelism and incorporating them into the life of the church may have tremendous, eternal results for the youth, their family and the Church.”
What else? Yesterday, Bob Culbertson, Darla Jones, Joyce Hopkins and I participated in the Fresh Expressions workshop. A Fresh Expression is basically about how we can serve all the people we see in our community in an imaginative way. So, “[e]ach fresh expression of church is unique, and designed for their particular context. They can be rural or suburban, in public spaces, housing projects and college dormitories. Some are aimed at specific groups. […] There is biker church, cowboy church, church for artists, church at or after work; the sky’s the limit. Each is an adventure in bringing the power of the Gospel to people who might never experience Christian community and the transformational and self-giving love of Jesus.” We will continue to learn about Fresh Expressions and attempt to implement them in our community. But, the point is that we are called to share God’s love with all the people we see in this community.
So, folks, let us be gathered to be reminded that God loves us as we are. And, let us be scattered to remind all the people we see that God loves them as they are. God is calling us to see all the people in the way Jesus saw the pressing crowd. Amen.
 . The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), ¶301.
 . https://bible.org/illustration/christ-one
 . http://www.gcumm.org/scouting
 . https://freshexpressionsus.org/about/#what
Why Judas? - Richard Croll, Guest Speaker on Feb. 3
Have you ever wondered what type of person Judas was? What did he look like? How did he act? Did he have many friends? Was he smart? When I think of Judas, Severous Snape of Harry Potter fame comes to mind. Hunch backed, greasy hair, mousy look...a real weaselly guy. But then I got to thinking about it, if Judas was the loner of the group, if Judas was the guy who looked like he didn't belong, wouldn't he have been the first one the other 11 would have turned to when Jesus said he was going to be betrayed by one of the 12?
Why Judas? Why was he the one to turn Jesus over to the high priests? Don't you think God could have picked someone else to point Jesus out? There were many people who knew Jesus, who saw him teach and perform miracles. Any of a number of others could have pointed Jesus out, so why Judas?
Judas as we heard in Matt 10 was one of the 12 disciples Jesus chose to send ...to drive out evil spirits....to heal the sick....to preach God's holy Word. Didn't God know Judas' future? Didn't He know Judas was the one who was going to betray Jesus? Of course he did, Jesus even foretold of it during the last supper. But did Jesus make a mistake in picking Judas? Remember Jesus didn't go out in the market square and in a blanket statement, ask for volunteers and take whoever raised their hand. Luke says in 6:13 that from a larger group of followers, he chose 12. Judas was chosen from a larger group of Jesus' followers, chosen as one of the 12! Jesus was face to face with many folks, and He deliberately asked each and every one, Judas included.
Why Judas? We don't know much about Judas, or for that matter several other of the 12...Judas 2 who was also known as Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Andrew, Phil and Barty. Most are not well known to us, and for that matter how much do we know about any of the disciples. What are their favorite colors? Birthday? Snack foods - besides John's love of locust and honey, fave sport, did they play quiditch, did any of them like camel racing?
None of this really matters, because it isn't how much we know about the disciples, but instead about how much we know about Jesus, and our heavenly father, who offered us the priceless gift of grace. My answer to "Why Judas" is found in Judas's lack of knowing Jesus. All those other followers that could have been chosen instead of Judas, longed for more of Jesus. They followed Jesus around the countryside, they worshipped him.
There aren't many scriptures about Judas in the Bible. Most say the same or at least similar things about him: he was one of the 12, he betrayed Jesus, he killed himself. However, if we check out the things John has to say-
John 6:70 -70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”
So, we know that Judas was chosen by Jesus. All of the 12 were chosen, so this doesn't help us much in finding who the true Judas is. All of us are chosen... each and every one of us, but as we know, not all who are chosen, actually live the life of a Christian. Some of the chosen don't listen and go their own way. Others accept Jesus, but don't really lead a Christian life and should be considered more of fans than Christians. They know of Jesus and what is required, but decide to sit in the stands and cheer for those participating in the game.
Let's look at tonight's football game, who has a jersey for one of the teams? Maybe a hat or t-shirt or license plate or cup? Maybe you have some Chiefs gear of similar types, same idea. Does that make you a member of the team? Of course not, we can't just say we are members. Oggie showed us earlier, just having a jersey, or knowing the names of the coaches and players doesn't make you a member of the team. If that were true, our own Isaac Caldwell would be a member of the Red Socks. No one knows more about any team than Isaac and his Socks. Congrats Isaac! No, we have to participate in practice, we have to study the play book, we have to live the life of the team.
Each member of the many teams around the world, know what their team stands for. Wildcats don't often cheer for Jayhawks, Patriots players know they don't voice their opinions about the team in public, and Heat, Cavs and Lakers players know you don't go against Lebron. Each team has its own underlying rules for how its members are to act. Some are allowed to question other players motives, some are allowed to go to the media, some players think they are above reproach.
News flash, being a member of Christ's team has similar rules. Sunday worship is as close as we come to practice, and it works for that purpose. Our team doesn't require us to attend, but we are encouraged to. We come here for the pep talks and the breaking down of film - that's where the pastor says good or bad things about what is going on with his team. He tells us in what areas are we lacking, what are our strengths. Being a good team player requires we study the playbook, we study the playbook to get in the game. Our playbook has all the answers, many more than Brady has in his. Every situation has been written about and how we are to react. The Bible is the ultimate playbook.
We do have John's account of a situation that arose in the previous gospels. The account has the disciples getting angry with Jesus for allowing the woman to slather an expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. Here is John's take....
John 12:5 - 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages."
John usually gives some pretty eye witness details. This one points directly at the heart of Judas. John also told of Judas' penchant for taking money from the treasury. Many of us would have had issues with what we didn't understand. We would have seen pouring expensive perfume on someone's feet, even Jesus' feet, as wasteful. But the skimming from your gang's money? Taking money from the church? Judas' heart was full of himself; he had no room for the love that knowing Christ gives you. Judas knew of Jesus, but he did not know him.
Jesus seems to be proving a point with the choice of "Why Judas". Jesus is showing us that people from within can cause great damage. Just look at our church from several years ago, it wasn't hurt from outside but instead by members within. Satan looks for cracks he can exploit. The biggest crack we can have in our foundation is to not have a foundation. If we do not get into the Word and spend time in prayer, our foundations will have cracks as well.
It seems the answer to "Why Judas" is not one, but many answers. The first is yet another teaching moment showing that sometimes the biggest problems come from within. A second is that he simply did not know Jesus until the very end. Before Judas' own death, he showed remorse and stated that he killed an innocent man. I believe this leads to the most important puzzler of "Why Judas". I see this as one of the major plot twists in the Bible.
While we cannot know for certain, scholars believe Judas died prior to Jesus. God, who wrote this story before He even created the earth, knew Judas was going to be the great betrayer. God knew who was responsible for turning over His Son over to those who would shortly after mock, ridicule, torture and then murder Jesus. In most cases, we have free will. The ability to choose, but Judas didn't have that luxury. And yet, I believe God left an escape clause to save Judas, should Judas want to be saved. With Judas dying before Jesus, he died before the veil was torn, before Jesus made a way for us to step through to the holiest of holies, before we had a place created for us in heaven. All those who died before Jesus are given the chance to repent and accept Christ as their savior. Maybe Judas can repent, or as it says in Matthew - "better that he had never been born". Is Judas in heaven or hell? It doesn't matter. What does matter is your relationship with our risen savior. Make sure you know Him and He knows you. Amen
Dearest Heavenly Father -
We, your children, gather here today to deepen our relationship with You. Let the music we sing and the words we hear touch us in ways that lead to thoughts of You, and allow Your Spirit to flow over us this day in ways that affect us throughout the week. We thank you, and we praise, today and forever more.
In Your precious son's name we pray, Amen.
While we collect our monetary tithes and offerings, do not forget that our offerings can take other forms. As we read in Proverbs 11:25 -
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
So, if you cannot give financially, do not fret. God has given us different ways to bless those He puts in our pathway. As we give today, prayerfully consider how you can give in other ways. Will the ushers please come forward.
All we have is a gift from You. Today, tomorrow and to the ends of the earth. We will always be dependent on your mercy and grace. Take these gifts we have given today, and search our hearts to find areas where we can give in different forms. Because you have not given us money alone, but have given us merciful and passionate hearts, eager and helping hands, loving and caring voices. Show us how we can use those gifts in the same manner so we can further Your Kingdom.
Bless us now as we say the prayer You taught Your disciples so long ago,
Our Father, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
As you go forth today, ask yourself, what kind of relationship do you have with our Risen Savior? If your answer is it could be better, do something about it. Pray more, read more, worship more. As you go forth, in whatever you do, do more. God bless.
Witness to the Word - Jan. 27
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a Title: Being Needy
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Good morning. May you be reminded again that you are beloved and gifted for each other as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
We have reflected on the great gifts that we received from God. First, we’ve gotten a new name “beloved” through baptism. Second, we’ve received unique spiritual gifts that we can use for others. Today, we are going to conclude the Greater Gifts worship series by thinking about the third gift we have been given. What do you think it is?
In today’s text, Paul compares the church with a body. “The body of Christ, [that is, a church] has many different parts, just as [a human body] does. […] Suppose a foot says, “I’m not a hand, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the foot still belong to the body? Or suppose an ear says, “I’m not an eye, and so I’m not part of the body.” Wouldn’t the ear still belong to the body? If our bodies were only an eye, we couldn’t hear a thing. And if they were only an ear, we couldn’t smell a thing. […] That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet” (1 Cor. 12:12-21, Contemporary English Version). Simply put, we need each other. I need you, and you also need me. I need him or her, and they need me as well. In that way, everyone is needy. This means that everyone is valuable to each other. Every gift is necessary for one another. Sometimes, you may need help from somebody. But, at the same time, your gifts and talents can benefit others. In this respect, we all are a gift to one another. It is your existence itself that is the great gift to this body of Christ.
The idea that we are of help to each other or are a gift to one another is grounded in the belief that we all are interdependent. Nobody is an island. Everyone relies on one another. Our eyes, nose, hands or feet share the same body. This is interdependence. We share the air to breathe in this sanctuary, in this community, and on this earth. This is interdependence. “To take a deep breath is to breathe in some of the breath that Jesus breathed on the cross. […] This is interdependence. [As a biologist says,] [e]very square mile of soil on our earth contains particles from every other square mile of soil on our earth. […] This is interdependence.” God has given each of us the same new name “beloved.” This is interdependence. We share the same humanity that was united with divinity in Jesus Christ. This is interdependence. Even when we are unaware of that, we are interdependent with each other.
Many years ago an accomplished organist was giving a concert. (In those days someone had to pump large bellows backstage to provide air for the pipes.) After each selection, the musician received the thunderous applause of a delighted audience. Before his final number, he stood up and said, “I shall now play,” and he announced the title. Sitting down at the console, he adjusted his music and checked the stops. With feet poised over the pedals and hands over the keys, he began with a mighty chord. But the organ remained silent. Just then a voice was heard from backstage, “Say ‘We’!”
We all are living on this earth while leaning on each other.
There is one thing we should note at this point. We Christians are willing to share our gifts with others. But, some people tend to think like this: ‘I can give you something. But I don’t think you have something to give me. I can benefit you, but you can’t benefit me.’ I’m not talking about giving without expecting anything in return. I’m talking about denying that others also have a gift that they can use for me. I’m talking about refusing to be influenced and changed by others. I’m talking about disagreeing that even the least among us also can sustain and enrich my life. I’m talking about being unaware that I am a gift to you and you are also a gift to me. In this sense, to become needy means to acknowledge that others are important enough to have a significant effect on my thoughts and behavior. In other words, it means that I genuinely welcome others to my life.
You may think that you will look weak if you are needy or that you don’t seem to be independent if you allow others to help or influence you. But, you know what, even the mighty God permitted a person God created to change God’s mind. Here is a conversation between God and Moses right after the event of the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf: God said, “Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, and I’m angry enough to destroy them, so don’t try to stop me. But I will make your descendants into a great nation.” Moses tried to get the Lord God to change [God’s] mind [saying,] “Our Lord, you used your mighty power to bring these people out of Egypt. Now don’t become angry and destroy them. If you do, the Egyptians will say that you brought your people out here into the mountains just to get rid of them. Please don’t be angry with your people. Don’t destroy them! Remember the solemn promise you made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You promised that someday they would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky and that you would give them land.” So even though [God] had threatened to destroy the people, [God] changed [God’s] mind and let them live” (Exod. 32:9-14, CEV). Does God look dependent because God allowed Moses to affect God? No. It is not stubbornness but receptivity that is one of the most essential characteristics of God we worship. Thus, being needy, being receptive, being open-minded, being willing to be influenced by others, those are signs of being healthy spiritually and emotionally.
Besides, when we who are needy truly lean on each other, we can be stronger rather than weaker. Here is an explanation about the mighty sequoia.
The sequoia is so resistant to pests and fire that their most common cause of death is simply falling down. For a tree so massive, how can this be? The answer is that the roots of sequoias only go 6 to 20 feet into the ground, and a sufficient windstorm can topple them, particularly if there is a buildup of ice and snow on the branches. But sequoias don’t typically grow alone. They grow in groves. Even though their roots may only grow 20 feet deep, those roots spread out to cover a wide area—intertwining with other sequoias. Combined together, their roots help them to withstand the winds.
By relying on each other, by being transformed by each other, we can hold each other up ultimately.
The fruit that is produced from the community in which people are delighted with each other’s gifts is this: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). I know we Burlington UMC members are good at rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. I am privileged to be your pastor. I believe that you can do so because you are sure that we are interdependent. When we “rejoice at another person’s joy” or empathize with his or her pain, God’s Kingdom already has come there. We know the power of sharing. That is why we share joys and concerns. Let us allow each other to rejoice and weep with us continually.
God’s beloved friends, what spiritual gifts have you received from God? What gifts and talents do you know others have been given? Let us keep sharing those gifts with each other as we have done. And, let us allow others to help us to grow in love. Let us be a gift to each other. And, let us remember that we all are a great gift to each other. Amen.
 . Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Paths, Twenty-Six Themes, and Two Questions (New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000), 280.
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Title: Gifted for Others
1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Good morning. May you be reminded of the gifts and talents that God has given you and of the reason why God has granted them to you as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed at this time.
Today is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. Last Sunday, we had a moment to celebrate the baptism of Jesus and reaffirm our baptismal covenant. And, we confirmed that the first great gift we have received from God is our new name “beloved.” We know God also calls every God’s beloved child to join God’s work as Jesus started his ministry on earth after he was baptized. Now, let’s turn our eyes to the unique spiritual gifts that God has given each of us. Everyone is gifted. And the each one’s gift is irreplaceable. Every gift is necessary. The gift you have received is important. God needs each one of us for God’s ministry. Then, what gifts has God given to you? How have you cooperated with God to fulfill the kingdom of God? As the Apostle Paul says in verse 1 of today’s reading, I would like you to have clear knowledge on what gifts or talents you can use. In that regard, we shared a couple of websites on which we can assess what spiritual gifts we have been given through the church Facebook page and email last week. Have you tried it? If not, it’s OK. You can do that later when you are available. Also, you will be able to find a hardcopy of the assessment form in the narthex. If you fill it in and hand it to me, I’ll let you know the result. Then, let’s think about the spiritual gifts briefly.
There are some passages in the Bible that shows the list of spiritual gifts concretely. First of all, we can find one of them in today’s text. What kinds of spiritual gifts does it mention? A message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of them.
Romans 12:6-8 is also a passage about spiritual gifts. It says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Ephesians 4:11 talks about some spiritual gifts as well: “[T]hese are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers” (New Living Translation).
Why does God give particular spiritual gifts to us? A gift is generally what benefits a receiver directly. But, what if a person gives you one hundred dollars and asks you to use that money not only for yourself but also for some of your friends? I have met that person when I was a college student. He was one of my church members. In that case, there are more people who can benefit from the gift given though I am the one who receives it directly. Verse 7 of today’s reading says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” New Living Translation version says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Contemporary English Version, “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” Ephesians 4:11-13 speaks with one voice on this matter: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” What we learn from this is that God gives us some gifts and talents for the concrete purpose. It is for others that we are gifted.
Though it seems that there are tons of different spiritual gifts listed in the passages that were mentioned before, we might be able to classify them into four categories. First, some of us may have the ability to interpret and proclaim the Word of God. Actually, everyone has received such a gift. As soon as we read the Bible, we start trying to answer some questions: What context was the passage written in? What does the author want to say? What does this word, sentence, or paragraph mean? What does God want to tell me or us through this text? This is a process of interpretation every reader goes through. And also, every follower of Jesus is called to preach the good news in the world. Nevertheless, there are some people who have a particular interest in those ministries. If you believe that you are one of them, the gift you have been given is a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, or a prophecy. You don’t necessarily have to consider prophesying as foretelling the future. It is simply sharing with others what God tells you. Those who are gifted with an interpretation and proclamation of God’s Word can serve others in this way. You can share what God has done with those whom you meet in your daily life. Also, you can proclaim the Word of God from the pulpit. The United Methodist Church encourages the lay people to preach. Last year, Stan Luke preached a sermon here on Laity Sunday, and Richard Croll on Youth Sunday. If you have a special calling to this ministry, you can be a certified lay speaker, a local pastor, or an ordained elder or deacon. You can visit with me anytime you have a question about it.
The second category is teaching and leading. We have Sunday schools for children, youth and adult, several Bible study meetings, spark groups, committees, ministry teams like a worship team, choir, bell choir, etc. All of them have a leader or a teacher. I hope more people can gain a spiritual and emotional benefit from small group meetings in our church, which means we need more people who can devote their time as leaders. Also, an opportunity to serve as a worship leader, a Sunday school teacher, a leader of Children’s Message time is open to anyone. If you love to do this ministry, please contact Luella Masters, Adrienne Fleming, Christian Education Director, Joyce Hopkins, Witness committee chairperson, or me.
The third group of spiritual gifts is serving. It encompasses encouraging, giving, showing mercy, healing, doing miracles, evangelizing, etc. We all have compassion for others and are called to demonstrate it through words and deeds. But, there are some people who are peculiarly good at supporting and encouraging others. They are talented at comforting others. Strangely enough, what they say tends to soothe people’s sorrow easily. If you think this is your story, here is how you can serve others. You can visit the church members who are in a hospital or a nursing home with me or by yourself anytime. Also, you can be a part of the group who particularly support the bereaved family. Please let me know if you are interested in this ministry. Besides, there are lots of opportunities to give our money, time, and energy both inside and outside the church. If you want to join a particular committee, please let Darla Jones, Nurture committee chairperson about how to serve our congregation, Rita Beard, Outreach team leader about how to reach out to the community and the world. And also, some people especially have compassion, so they pray. If you consider yourself as one of them, you can serve as a member of ignite team. Please contact Hope Peckham, Ignite team leader.
The fourth category includes speaking tongues, interpreting them, and distinguishing between spirits, etc. We usually tend to think the gifts of this group are spiritual gifts. But, they are some of the spiritual gifts alongside the other ones that the Apostle Paul mentions. Here are guidelines for this group of spiritual gifts from the United Methodist Church.
We believe the church needs to pray for a sensitivity to be aware of and to respond to manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our world today. We are mindful that the problems of discerning between the true and fraudulent are considerable, but we must not allow the problems to paralyze our awareness of the Spirit's presence; nor should we permit our fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar to close our minds against being surprised by grace. We know the misuse of mystical experience is an ever-present possibility, but that is no reason to deny spiritual experiences.
So, please allow the Holy Spirit to work freely in you. God can work beyond our understanding. But at the same time, we can and should be mindful of the basic criteria as well. When using these kinds of spiritual gifts, do we seek the common good? How can we serve one another by using them?
Lastly, did I say about faith as a gift which is mentioned in verse 9 of today’s text? It does not mean the faith through which we are saved. Rather, it means the faith through which we can willingly serve others with our spiritual gifts. I pray that God continually gives such faith to each one of us so that we can use our gifts and talents for one another. Amen.
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.