Much change has happened in the way we live and worship since March of this year, and it was around this time that our congregation began transcribing the Bible. Some took up chapters, while others volunteered to write entire books of the Bible by hand. Our handwritten Bible has finally arrived from Korea, beautifully bound in leather. We will place it on the altar table this coming Thanksgiving Sunday. My heart overflowed with gratitude as I held the Bible in my arms and prayed. What a blessing and a gift of God’s grace to our congregation, especially amid the dark realities of 2020. I’m thankful that the light of faith is guiding the steps of our church members during the night of the pandemic. Indeed, faith shines best in darkness.
It has been a difficult road, and therefore more precious have been the heartfelt contributions of our church members for the holy, beautiful, and good works of God. I heard a loud voice in the churchyard on Friday where food pantry ticket distribution was going on – our staff raised his voice to an unruly neighbor after some persistent disruptions. The staff person later apologized, and I told him, “I am sure you’ve been going through a lot. We don’t speak Chinese, and they don’t speak Korean…” It is quite unbelievable that FUMC food pantry has been going on for over half a year now. We started as an emergency hunger relief for the neighborhood, thinking to last maybe a month or so. Defying initial expectations, our food pantry has grown and expanded, now distributing food to about 300 people every week. During the Charge Conference last Thursday, our District Superintendent Rev. Sungchan Kim expressed how proud and thankful he was that FUMC in Flushing has so successfully kept up the food pantry program, in fact, the only Korean American congregation to do so in New York. It was possible because God brought helpful connections to our reach and let his light shine through us in darkness.
More and more I hear people expressing their coronavirus blues. It is said that the loneliness problem is particularly acute during the holidays every year, starting around the Thanksgiving season. I can imagine how difficult it would be when holiness loneliness strikes on top of the coronavirus blues. In the Book of Job 35:10, Elihu laments that “No one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night.’” In this season, what the church can do is to witness that God gives songs in the night, even in a dark night of the soul. God has planted the light in us, and our job is to let that little light shine. Let is shine, as we used to sing as children, through a phone call, or perhaps a greeting card. At times, giving a little gift or sharing a warm meal sparks an unimaginable light of life into a person.
There’s a little quote that I’ve been sharing with people these days: “When you can’t control what is happening around you, challenge yourself to control the way in which you respond.” Some get knocked out by a wave, while others ride the wave. We used extended stay-at-home periods as the time for spiritual discipline through handwriting, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture. While physically distanced, we drew closer to each other through face-to-face video conversations. Our sharing with neighbors and other local churches has become even more abundant through the food pantry, in ways we had previously not imagined. We saw a steep decline in offerings, but the life of the church continued thanks to the preparatory measures taken by the leadership of our church. Last but not least, we forged spiritual unity through Nehemiah 40-day Prayer Relay and tasted the fruits of solidarity and partnership through the 40-Day Early Morning Prayer Revival, which we finish this coming Saturday. “Count Your Blessings,” the old hymn reminds us. The grace and blessings of God are flowing over our congregation.
Before sending out this year’s Thanksgiving Sunday letters, I suggested we should refrain from enclosing the offering envelopes. Everyone disagreed, saying, “The times are difficult, but our church members will gladly prepare their Thanksgiving offerings.” I realize my suggestions were made out of consideration, but lacking faith. By faith, our church members overcame all that the pandemic had brought upon them this year. Knowing this I am confident that gratitude will abundantly overflow this Thanksgiving season.