This new year, FUMC in Flushing’s new slogan is “Church Raised in God’s Power.” While our core value continues to be ‘Christ-centered, worship-centered church,’ the new slogan reflects our need to rebuild in 2021 – not by human zeal and efforts, but by the power of God. I was inspired from the book of 1 Kings 7:21. King Solomon sets up two pillars in the temple and he names the pillar to the south Jakin, which means, “he establishes.” The pillar to the north he names Boaz – “in him is strength.” Putting the two names together we have “God will establish by his strength.”
In 2021, we will continue to raise up the two pillars of worship – one within our house of worship and the other at our respective homes. We will continue to raise up the two pillars of the Word and prayer, above all by having the Word of God engraved in us through writing, reading, and memorizing it. And we will likewise continue to build up the pillars of inward and outward holiness through small groups and the daily practice of God’s love as a way of life.
For too long churches have sunk into a swamp of materialism and consumerism. We have mistakenly applied the Olympic Motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger) to the barometer of our faith. Many of our passion and zeal were focused on areas that had little actual relevance to Jesus’ ministry. We neglected to look inward; and as a consequence, have not properly looked outward either. This year, may we take one step at a time so as to delve deeper, and be emboldened to be more vulnerable. Only then we will be able to recover our first love for Jesus – God who became flesh to enter into the lives of his creation.
Above all, we want to be Gospel-centered. During the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, I wanted the world to know that church can do many good works even behind closed doors. But over time I came to see such efforts in a different light. By showcasing the good works, sooner or later we will culminate in legalism. It is akin to the image of the rich young man, who proudly presents before Jesus that he has kept all the commandments but ultimately couldn’t follow him. But to be Gospel-centered means to be resistant to the spirit of the Pharisee. Being Gospel-centered means drawing closer to the Father’s heart so as to be filled amidst our spiritual poverty.
I pray for the ministry that focuses on what is timeless, unchanging. In the end, everything changes, but what remains is Salvation at the Cross and Victory of Resurrection. In the midst of all that’s been shattered by the coronavirus pandemic, one new found grace was seeing life in a new light through our mortality. The harvest time is coming, whereby the thirsting spirits will be saved through meeting Jesus. This means church must persistently narrow its focus on how people can start living heaven’s life on earth, regardless of their present circumstances. After all, the power of God delivers us to live eternal life as God intends, already here and now by the faith in Jesus. Church must be the place that faithfully mirrors the Kingdom of Heaven, the place where people experience a taste of heaven on earth.
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of my ordination. Looking back, my heart resonates with that of Peter who could rise only because the risen Christ came to meet him. And as Peter confessed, I find no other words to my journey but “Lord, you know.” In the remaining years, I want to take after Jesus’ ministry. For me personally, it means letting go of the self-inflicted burden to measure up to a certain kind of preaching, encompassing references from history and the humanities, bearing implications to our present socio-political realities. Throughout the years I carried the pressure to preach social justice-oriented sermons, but I realize that is not how the world is changed. I preached seeking to change the lives of our church members, but God was more interested in changing me. I tried to change lives and the world from the pulpit, but I’ve come to recognize that real transformation can only happen from the inside out.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus focused on transforming people and sent them to transform the world. Jesus focused on loving one person after another. That’s how in Jesus was life: the power that lifted up the least, the lost, and the last of the world as heirs to God’s kingdom
In 2021, may we be the church raised by the power of this love.