It was wonderful to have in-person service at our 11 AM service this Sunday. With thankful hearts, we will continue to wait with vigilance for God to open more doors for us. In the meantime, we will celebrate each other’s presence keeping 6-feet apart with masks on, humming hymns rather than singing out loud.
By grace we have endured thus far, with NY once being the epicenter of the pandemic; so it is all the more important that our church members continue to stay safe. We will keep up our best efforts for those who are ready to return to church. But if you choose to stay home at this time, please stay home and worship with us online. Whether online at home or offline at church, what never changes is that our worship offered in spirit and truth is a beautiful aroma that brings glory to God.
I learned some valuable life lessons while staying put these past four months. I’ve come to appreciate the breath God breathed on me. Breathing in and out the gift of life, a sense of peace came over. There is much grace in the realization that life is sustained by breath God has given us, more than anything we can ever do for ourselves. Inhaling and exhaling in stillness and quietness, it was a blessing to taste what Apostle Paul called a secret for contentment with life in God’s hands.
Other life lessons came from little greens and herbs, currently growing in raised beds at the edges of our church parking lot. There were some heavy rain and gusty winds last Friday, so it was a pleasant surprise to catch bigger eggplants and a glimpse of new tomatoes the next morning. And then there are natural shade lovers, while others require full sun to thrive. But too much sun is not necessarily good for any plant. Too much of a good thing, so to speak. Finally, am I the only one who didn’t know that even plants and vegetables have their compatibility? It turns out tomatoes, leeks, and basil are good companions, but cucumbers and squash should not be planted together because they compete for the same nutrients.
The lessons from container gardening might apply to our ways of living. Recently someone in Korea asked my two cents over some matter: A young pastor is facing a disciplinary charge from his denomination for violating the church law for saying a prayer of blessing at Seoul Queer Culture Festival. I gave a matter-of-fact answer, “If he breached the church law, he will be charged as the law prescribes. If the law itself is evil, then he needs to fight to change the law.” “But he is like Jesus.” the other replied. So I asked, “If he is like Jesus, why does he need anyone’s approval?” I understand where he is coming from – he wants to help the pastor in trouble. But comparing someone to Jesus automatically places his opponents on the side of Pontius Pilate, Pharisees or Sadducees.
The adverse effects of polarization can be felt everywhere nowadays. People draw dividing lines as if the world and all its contents fall into this dualistic battle between absolute good versus absolute evil. People fight with convictions rather than actionable facts, busy pointing fingers at each other rather than coming together to find ways to move forward. I don’t see how such zero-sum thinking can benefit us all in the long run.
Statues are being torn down across the country these days. Not only the memorials of Confederate generals but also that of George Washington and Andrew Jackson have become the targets. After Christopher Columbus statue was thrown in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for his atrocities against Native Americans, now the statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglas was taken down in Rochester, NY. While certain things must break down for progress and historical change, we shouldn’t forget that the root of evil remains until Christ returns. “Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves,” Jesus said.
“When I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me,” writes Paul. Those who claim to do good work must see that they too are bent on evil. Those who champion justice must engage in the introspection of injustice within. We all have sinned and fallen short. If democracy is the best system we’ve got, we can only maintain its values by respecting the process. We need to be aware of dangers of anarchists. The fulfillment of the kingdom of God is in God’s sovereign hands, not ours.
We like to take justice into our own hands. But not so fast. Jesus warned disciples about hastily pulling the weeds “because you’ll pull up the wheat along with them.” There will come a time when weeds will be gathered and eventually put out to be burned.