Lenten Letter from Bishop

April 1, 2014

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As we continue to journey in the Lenten season, particularly as we enter the Holy Week, I am sure that all of us reflect on many aspects of Jesus’s ministry and mission! Of course, each one of them is very important and vital.

One of the images I am reflecting on is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that in my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, someone presented me with a beautiful olive wood carving of Jesus washing the feet of a disciple. As I ponder on this image, one of the things that crosses my mind is Peter’s statement to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:6).

We may never know what prompted Peter to react in this way, or what was going on in his mind as Jesus approached to wash his feet. Perhaps this was a shock to Peter because in that culture washing one’s feet was not a task of a leader but of a subordinate.

Perhaps Peter was not able to understand and accept the symbolism of someone washing his feet.

Perhaps Peter was uncomfortable with someone touching his feet.

Perhaps Peter was not ready to be humbled by someone washing his feet.

But as one reflects upon this holy act on the part of Jesus, as one reflects upon the dialogue between Jesus and Peter around this issue, it becomes very clear that Christ is offering a model to all of his followers of His ministry and mission. Jesus makes it abundantly clear by saying, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord-and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15).

May I prayerfully suggest you ponder this thought as we continue our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ? Where is God calling us to wash someone’s feet at this hour in our homes, neighborhoods, nation and world?

Today, the opportunity may not be there to necessarily physically touch someone’s feet and wash them … but what about spiritually, emotionally, and financially?

More importantly, how do we react or respond to this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, as we journey as disciples of Jesus in the twenty-first century? Perhaps one of the reasons Peter was reluctant to accept Christ’s offer was he believed doing so might be seen as a weakness or lack of leadership. A few years ago, a wise mentor reminded me that accepting someone’s help in our journey is not a weakness, but a strength indeed! Many a time we fail in our ministry because we are too confident of ourselves and we refuse to take someone else’s help.

As we journey as disciples of Jesus Christ, the context of our ministry is much different from years ago! As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are constantly pushed into the margins of our society, where the ministry of a towel and basin is a blessing! It is not a ministry where we have all the answers as individuals, but a ministry where we constantly need to hear one another, learn from one another, and understand one another. In that context our mentors and teachers might be fellow pilgrims who are younger or older than us, pilgrims who may have a different accent or different lifestyle, BUT they too are the children of God who have the same quest as ours.

May God grant you and me the wisdom, courage, peace, and direction filled with the love of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so that we may resemble our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our guru, who taught us the importance of the ministry of the towel and basin.

May the power and courage of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be our strength in the forthcoming Holy Week and always!

In Christ’s love,

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

Kimchi Cooking Class 02/13/2014

Kimchi Cooking class…

It was a great night to introduce 11 neighbors and church members about Kimchi which is a Korean traditional fermented side dish.

Every one had a chance to make and taste it by themselves. And they took the Kimchi that they made home.

Thanks to God for the beautiful night sharing Kimchi with our neighbors.

 

Letter from D.S. Seok Hwan

Dear fellow Sojourners and colleagues,

Every Sunday, in every corner of the world, people gather to hear a story, story of life, love, hope and faith. For almost 2,000 years that story has been told and retold. That story, of a man called Jesus of Nazareth, a man who became Christ, was originally told by his first followers and then retold by a missionary to Korea who was sent by the United Methodist Women from USA. Along the way, a young man, my father Yoon-Kee Hong, had found in its telling, its own meaning and interpretation from a Methodist missionary in Korea and became a Christian.

He married a young lady, who is my mother, Kyung-Ah Lee, a Buddhist who later converted to Christianity. I am a second generation Christian in my family. I grew up in an environment where two cultures clashed between my mother and my father. My mother worried much about living with poor condition; my father had a strong faith that God would provide what we needed. Every Sunday, and especially on Thanksgiving Day, I saw the struggle between my mother and my father. My father practiced tithing in everything that made my mother worry and uncomfortable. My father advised me to give a tithe even from my small amount of allowance.

My father learned from his missionary, and mentor, that giving was no pious act designed to increase contributions to the church budget but a means of expressing generosity rooted in gratitude for God’s generosity and of fulfilling the great commandment to love. My mother had been gradually convinced by this belief and had seen enough to know that our generous God blessed all of us with more than enough things.

My son Jonathan complained about taking out a tithe from all his gifts and I explained to him what I had learned from my father and he is painfully practicing to express generosity as well. Someday he will know how much it is a privilege to share the blessings of God.

Dear friends! I have traveled to 65 churches and had joyful fellowship with brothers and sisters. I feel we need to reclaim a precious Wesleyan tradition that “the Methodist would give all we have and then all would have enough.”

We, the RISEM District, are going to have a chance to experience “Developing a Culture of Generosity” in both March and October this year. I hope that you and many lay leaders of your congregation take this valuable opportunity to develop a culture of generosity, to create a climate ripe for giving, to learn a biblical alternative to materialism, and teach the offering as a worship experience. Encourage and plan to be in this workshop together on March 29, 2014 with Melvin Amerson and October 4, 2014 with Cliff Christopher.

We are called Methodist because Wesley learned how to be a Christian by methodically practicing every day the means of grace. Everything becomes easier once we have started; it is getting started that is the hardest part. Let us come together and learn how to be good Christians.

Your brother, Seok Hwan

The Spirit of God Within Us (02/09/2014)

The Spirit of God within Us

1 Corinthians 2:1-12

In his autobiography, Man and Rubber, Harvey Firestone tells an interesting little story which concerns Henry Ford, who was a close personal friend of Mr. Firestone.
Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Mr. Ford, and Mr. Firestone were on one of their summer camping trips, traveling by automobile. They were camped one evening near the road. They noticed a man walking briskly down the road toward them. On approaching the group he said, “Gentlemen, I am in trouble up the road about a mile. I am on my way to an important engagement, and my car has stalled. It absolutely refuses to go. I have tried everything I know to do, with no results. Do any of you men know anything about a Ford?”
Mr. Firestone spoke up. Pointing to Mr. Ford, he said, “That old fellow over there knows quite a bit about a Ford car.”
“Will you come and help me?” the man asked pleadingly.
“With pleasure,” Mr. Ford replied.
Mr. Ford started up his own Model T Ford which he happened to be driving, and he and the stranger drove back to the stalled car. In a few minutes he had the man’s Ford purring, and both Mr. Ford and the stranger were happy about it.
“How much do I owe you?” asked the man, taking out his wallet.
“Nothing at all,” cheerfully replied the wealthy automobile manufacturer. “It has given me real pleasure to be of some assistance.”
“It is worth a lot to me to be able to get on my way. And you have fixed my car so it runs better than it ever ran before.” I would like to show you that I appreciate what you have done for me.”
“It is sufficient reward for me to be able to be of some help to you.” Mr. Ford said again.
“I certainly do thank you,” the man said. “And do you mind if I say this? If I knew as much about an automobile as you know, I would not be riding around in a thing like that.” He pointed to Mr. Ford’s model T.
Mr. Ford drove back to his friends and told the story, and they all had a hearty laugh. (From God’s Minutes: A Classic Collection of Short Inspirational Stories, p. 18-20).

Mr. Ford made his cars and knew everything about them. This true story today reminds us that God creates us and knows everything about us. Based on this story, I would like to continue this sermon with the same theme as last Sunday.

As we saw last week, the “wisdom” of which Paul speaks is not identical with what we today might call philosophical, theological, or academic thinking. In I Corinthians 1, Paul says, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Today’s text is the next part of Paul’s letter. Paul says,
“My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

In this verse, Paul clearly says that he does not use wise and persuasive words for preaching to the Corinthians. Rather, he preaches with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. It is because as Paul says in verse 11, “No one comprehends what is truly God’s wisdom except the Spirit of God.”

God’s wisdom is not what we can have with our worldly wisdom. We can only understand it with the power of God’s Spirit. Now given that we can understand God’s wisdom with the Spirit of God, the first thing that we need to know is that we have received the Spirit of God. Many biblical scholars and even many Christians believe that when God created us, God gave us the Spirit of God. According to Genesis 2: 7, God breathed into human’s nostrils the breath of life. By the breath of life, it means the Spirit of God.

We all have the Spirit of God, the source to understand God’s wisdom. So, Paul says, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”

With the faith that we have the Spirit of God, we need to speak about God’s wisdom in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit. In Paul’s time, before or later, many of the Greek philosophers were part deep thinker and part popular entertainer whose polished oratory, eloquence, and wisdom dazzled their audiences. Paul also thoroughly trained for those skills under Gamaliel who held a reputation in the Mishnah for being one of the greatest teachers in all the annals of Judaism. Paul, even though he was highly educated, uses the Spirit of God to understand God’s wisdom.

Today’s message is very simple. Seek the Spirit of God to understand God’s wisdom, not our worldly wisdom. Of course, to some extent, we might need to use our education and knowledge we have been taught in the world. I don’t mean that we should ignore our reasoning ability. We are people who are intellectual and reasoning. However, as Christians, we need to not to enthrone reason over the Spirit of God.

Once, Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, said, “Christ doesn’t destroy reason; he dethrones it.” I agree with him. Jesus came to dethrone reason.
Paul dethroned reason and enthroned the Spirit of God and spoke God’s wisdom which was secret and hidden to those who were unspiritual and did not recognize the gifts of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God reveals itself within us.

This is a situation in which we find ourselves today, not terribly different from Paul’s. We are in a world that is in desperate need of the truths of the gospel: the simple truths that love is of more value than hate, that peace is better than war, that we have a responsibility to one another as children of God. The truth that the God made fully known in Jesus Christ is a God of love and compassion, not a God of violence and vengeance. But these truths are, as Paul says in verse 1, the “mystery” of God. This mystery, in the way Paul uses the word, is not like a puzzle that we can master with enough perseverance.

This mystery, the good news of the gospel, is available to all. Any person who believes that God is at work in Jesus Christ receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, according to Paul, that enables them to clearly see this public mystery of God. It is hidden in plain sight, plainly visible to the eyes of faith but hidden from those who do not recognize the Spirit within them.

Let’s get back to the beginning story. Mr. Ford knew everything in his car. He knew how to fix his cars. But this truth was hidden from the young stranger. Of course, Mr. Ford did not introduce himself to the young man and he never had a chance to know of him. Unlike him, we have various sources to know/meet God: the Bible, hymns, spiritual books and this universe, and even we within whom the Spirit of God lives. We must be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit in us, learning from Jesus, growing in our understanding so that we may affirm with Paul that “we have the mind of Christ.” I pray you all would affirm this truth and fully live out your Christian lives with the Spirit of God.

Let us pray.
Gracious and holy God we give you thanks for this day in which we remember your Spirit is within us. We give you thanks for this great gift bestowed upon us by you. And now help us to live more fully with the power of your Spirit. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

January 19, 2014

Chilmark Community Church
January 19, 2014 2nd  Sunday after Epiphany
Prelude: Prelude #9 from the Well Tempered Clavier, J.S.Bach
Gathering and Announcements

Introit  “It’s Me, It’s Me, O Lord” 352

Call to Worship  : Psalm 40:1-11   p.774

*Hymn  “ Here I Am Lord”  p.593

Prayer of Reconciliation    by Martin Luther King (unison)
O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.
Silent prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

Children’s Moment

Lectionary Discussion    Marilyn Hollinshead
Isaiah 49:1-7
John 1:29-42

*Hymn  “Let the Lower Lights be Burning” words printed on bulletin.

Concerns and Celebrations

Leader: To God who welcomes all in love, let us pray for the good of the church and the concerns of those in need.

(Silent Prayer)

God of every land and nation, you have created all people
and you dwell among us in Jesus Christ. Listen to the cries of those who pray to you, and grant that, as we proclaim the greatness of your name, all people will know the power of love at work in the world. Amen.

Offering
*Hymn 95 “Praise God From Whom All Blessing Flow”

Prayer of Dedication (unison)
Perfect Light of revelation, as you shone in the life of Jesus,
whose epiphany we celebrate, so shine in us and through us and these gifts, that we may become beacons of truth and compassion, enlightening all creation with deeds of justice and mercy. Amen.

*Hymn   “Let There Be Peace on Earth” p.431

Benediction  (unison)
O God, you spoke your word  and revealed your good news in Jesus, the Christ. Fill all creation with that word again, so that by proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations and singing of your glorious hope to all peoples, we may become one living body, your incarnate presence on the earth. Amen.

Postlude : Andante by Maurice Greene
_PLEASE COME FOR COFFEE IN FELLOWSHIP HALL ____
Worship Leader: Emily Broderick
Organist:  Carol Loud
Pastor: Seongmoon  Ahn
Next Week’s Lessons:  Isaiah 9:1-4;1 Corinthians:1:10-18; Matt. 4:12-23
*Stand if you are able

Dwight L. Moody LET THE LOWER LIGHTS BE BURNING

A few years ago, at the mouth of Cleveland harbor, there were two lights, one at each side of the bay, called the upper and lower lights; and to enter the harbor safely by night, vessels must sight both of the lights.
These western lakes are more dangerous sometimes than the great ocean. One wild, stormy night, a steamer was trying to make her way into the harbor. The captain and pilot were anxiously watching for the lights.
By-and-by the pilot was heard to say, “Do you see the lower light?” “No,” was the reply; “I fear we have passed them.” “Ah, there are the lights,” said the pilot; “and they must be, from the bluff on which they stand, the upper lights. We have passed the lower lights, and have lost our chance of getting into the harbor.” What was to be done? They looked back, and saw the dim outline of the lower lighthouse against the sky. The lights had gone out. “Can’t you turn your head around?” “No; the night is too wild for that. She won’t answer to her helm.” The storm was so fearful that they could do nothing.
They tried again to make for the harbor, but they went crash against the rocks, and sank to the bottom. Very few escaped; the great majority found a watery grave. Why? Simply because the lower lights had gone out. Now, with us the upper lights are all right. Christ Himself is the upper light, and we are the lower lights, and the cry to us is, keep the lower lights burning; that is what we have to do. He will lead us safe to the sunlit shore of Canaan, where there is no more night.

Chilmark Community Church
Seongmoon Ahn, Pastor
Chilmarkchurch.org

Chilmark Community Church

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse ever more,
But to us He give the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
CHO.-
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud and angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore. – CHO.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor seaman tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness MAY BE LOST. – CHO.

Go and Tell what You See and Hear! (12/15/2013)

121513

Matthew 11:2-11
Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents’ house the week before Christmas. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers. The younger one began praying at the top of his lungs:
“I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE…” “I PRAY FOR A NEW NINTENDO…”

His older brother leaned over, nudged him and said, “Why are you shouting? God isn’t deaf.” To which the little brother replied, “No, but our grandparents are!”

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. How has your journey been? Have you lived in peace last week? Have you hoped big enough to celebrate the coming of Jesus into your lives?
This morning we read Matthew 11 which starts with John’s question to Jesus. He was in prison and sent his disciples to ask this question, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
For me, it is very odd that John asked this question to Jesus. Who is John? According to the gospels, John was so convinced that Jesus was the one who was to come.

John was a prophet who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah whose sandals he was not fit to carry. He proclaimed that the Messiah will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and with fire. When Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John, he tried to deter Jesus, saying Do you come to me for I need to be baptized by you? We can see that John realized the identity of Jesus as the Messiah for which all Israelites had waited.

However, in prison, John asked Jesus, “Give us more data so that we can believe in you!” Why did John send his disciples to ask this question? There are various explanations. Someone think that John might have a question, “if Jesus is really God’s messiah and good news from God for the world, why am I still suffering and living with pain in this dark prison?”

Or, someone might think that he was in prison and it could be the last moment for him. He might want to make sure that Jesus was the real Messiah. For him as well as the other Israelites, the coming of God’s Messiah was the greatest Good news at that time. John, as the forerunner who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, wanted to make sure he was correct.

Both explanations are reasonable. Right? But I have another answer to this question, an answer to drive us to look at ourselves in our life situation. Before answering the question, we need to see Jesus’ answer first. Jesus sent John’s disciples to answer the question as follows,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

Do you see the point of Jesus’ answer?

John was in prison. It was dark and disconnected from the world. This figuratively means that John was blind and deaf in the prison. He couldn’t see Jesus’ ministry or hear any good news from him. The prison made John blind and deaf.

For John, Jesus sent witnesses who saw Jesus’ ministry and heard the good news from God, so that John could open his closed eyes and ears in the prison.
Without being able to see for himself, John could grasp the larger messianic meaning of Jesus’ ministry through his disciples. Jesus responds with a direct appeal to their senses, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.”
John’s question is the question for all of us, who live in the 21st century. We might live in prison where we cannot see the grace and love of Jesus and where we cannot hear the good news from him. We might live in prison where it is too hard for us to keep the good news in our minds. In the prison, our senses become dull.

The challenge for us in Advent is to allow Jesus to restore our senses, to have him open our eyes and ears, so that we can go and tell others what we hear and see. Admittedly, from the darkness of our prison cells, it can be hard for us to grasp the larger messianic meaning of Jesus’ ministry. That is the problem with the darkness; we lose our way, becoming blind and deaf to the fact that the kingdom of God is all around us.

Jesus is coming to light the darkness in order to open our eyes and ears as he did for John. We don’t know what happened to John immediately after this message. There is no record of it. However, we can guess what might have happened to John before he was killed. With the conviction and excitement that Jesus is the Messiah from God, he might have sent his disciples to the world so that they could spread what they saw and what they heard. Based on his life stories in the gospels, I can draw this picture. If my guess is right, then we can imagine our role as Christians in the Advent season.

Obviously, according to the message of Isaiah, the good news of Advent is that “the people who walked in darkenss have seen a great light.” It is the increasing light of Advent that can help us cut through holiday haze and prepare us to welcome the one who is coming.

Today, through the message of Matthew, God invites us to open our eyes to see the light of the world, so that we can see the true needs for ourselves as well as our neighbors. Thankfully, we come to church to see and to hear God’s good news. However, some of our neighbors do not. How can they open their eyes and ears to the good news from God?

Here is an interesting story. In January of 2007, The Washington Post videotaped the reactions of commuters at a D.C. Metro (subway) stop to the music of a violinist. The overwhelming majority of the 1000 commuters were too busy to stop. A few did, briefly, and some of those threw a couple of bills into the violin case of the street performer. No big deal, just an ordinary day. Except it wasn’t an ordinary day. The violinist wasn’t just another street performer; he was Joshua Bell, one of the most famous violinists in the world, playing his multi-million dollar Stradivarius. Three days earlier he had filled Boston’s Symphony Hall with people paying a hundred dollar per seat to hear him play similar pieces. The question the Post author and many others since have asked is simple: Have we been trained to recognize beauty outside of the contexts where we expect to encounter beauty? Or, to put it another way, can we recognize great music anywhere outside of a concert hall?

I’d like to ask a similar question of the Washington Post author. Can our neighbors detect God only when God is surrounded by the walls of the church and the sound of the organ music? Can our neighbors recognize the beauty of living within God’s grace and love? I’m afraid that most can’t. This is why Jesus sent disciples and commanded them to tell what they saw and what they heard.

Let me wrap up today’s sermon with my experience as a student pastor of my last church. Every Christmas, we had a project to support the people in Nicaragua, especially the children who needed clean water. All the children in the church were engaged in making a few hundred cards. We sold them to the church members and raised some money. Then, we sent the money to UMCOR which is an organization of the United Methodist Church, which serve the poor around the world. They are well known as a group to send 100 % of donations to the mission place. The children took part in helping the poor. The church members took part in the mission by buying the cards. And UMCOR, the organization of the UMC, took part in directing the mission to share the light for the world.

The Chilmark Community Church is involved in this kind of mission. We have committed ourselves to our neighbors by fulfilling mission share ministry. We have supported our neighbors by hosting Flea Market and Lobster Rolls. We have served our neighbors through pizza night, soup supper and various ways. I am sure that God has nurtured and supported us so far. We need to give thanks to God for it. God will tell us, “Good job!”

Our mission in this community should be continued in order for us to remain as a church where God reigns. 2014 is around the corner. And we need to be ready to light the darkness. Let us together pray for the future missions of our church. Let us together take action. Jesus tells us, “Go and tell what you see and what you hear.

Let us pray. Dear Lord, we are here again to worship you. We give thanks to you for having supported our missions in 2013. We give thanks to you for having been with us. And now again, we pray to you for granting us faith and your wisdom so that we can continue our missions for our neighbors in 2014. Bless us to be the light to shine in the darkness. In your name, we pray. Amen.

Abounding in Hope (12/08/2013)

Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-14

Today is the second Sunday of Advent and I will start this sermon with a true story. There is a book by Victor Frankl, who was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. His book is entitled, “FROM DEATHCAMP TO EXISTENTIALISM,” and he tells of his life in the death camps and concentration camps of Germany during World War II. For those prisoners in those death camps, it was awful. Rats, freezing weather and freezing rain, and freezing fingers and freezing toes, freezing warehouses and freezing outhouses, and beatings from the guards. The only hope for the prisoners, according to Frankl, was for the Allied forces to come and set them free. And for some unknown reason, that hope became connected with Christmas. The prisoners in one particular camp started to believe that freedom was going to come on Christmas. And so these prisoners clung to life. They struggled with their freezing feet and freezing toes and freezing hands. They struggled with their frost bitten bodies. Why? Because they had hope. Thank God, they had hope. They were waiting for Christmas. They were waiting for freedom. They were waiting for release. And finally, Christmas Day came. And Christmas Day went. There were no Allies. There was no release. There was no freedom. And there was no hope fulfilled. Immediately, on the days afterwards, before the New Year came around, slowly, one at a time, there was first one suicide. Then two suicides. Then three suicides. Pretty soon, people were sleeping through meals and sleeping through exercises and many people were slipping into their deaths. And by New Year’s Eve, many from this camp had died. Six months later, when the Allied forces finally did come to bring freedom to this concentration camp, half of the prisoners had died. Most of them died during that Christmas season, after Christmas Day. Many of them died because of the loss of hope. They gave up too soon.

Last Sunday’s sermon was about waiting in joyful hope. The theme of this Sunday’s sermon is also about hope. Advent is a season to hope for peace, love, comfort, or something like that in our lives. It is a season to fill ourselves with a hope from God who is the source of hope. However, these days, many say that we might find ourselves ashamed at how small our hopes are. Our hopes tend to be small. What about you? Do you hope big or small?

I believe that each of us has one’s own hope based on life situations. I, as a pastor, also have a simple but big hope to lead our church for 2014 so that we can serve our neighbors and spread Good news from God. So, outreach committee will have a very important role in doing this mission next year. God will support and guide us for the missions in which we will engage. My hope is that everyone prays and supports together. 2014 is coming soon. For 2014, I will do my best to organize our church missions for this goal.

What kinds of hope do you have? Today, we will take a look at the Scripture and examine our hope before God. Biblically speaking, we could say that hope is “Paul’s favorite word.” Used only three times in all of the gospels, Paul uses the word 14 times in his letter to the Romans alone. Hope is one of the most important qualities in our faith journey. It always says to us, “Don’t give up too soon, but continue to hope for every good thing before God.”

This morning, we read Romans 15, which is part of the climax of Paul’s letter to the Romans. This passage begins and ends with hope, and it says the character of God is the basis for that hope. In v. 4, “steadfastness and the encouragement of the scriptures” is the source of hope. In v. 5, “the God of steadfastness and encouragement,” to whom scripture witnesses, gives hope. In v. 12 the Gentiles hope in the Messiah and in v. 13, the final and familiar blessing sums up the passage, and indeed, the letter as a whole: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Here is Dante’s understanding about hope. You might have read Dante in high school or college. In the book, the sign above the entrance to Dante’s hell says, “Abandon hope all you who enter here.” For Dante, hell is a place with no hope. To enter hell is to give up hope.

Let’s go back to the beginning story. The people at the death camp had hope that freedom was going to come on Christmas. They could stand their freezing feet, toes, and hands. They could overcome their fears at the death camp. However, many of them ended up dying and some of them committed suicide. Why? Because after Christmas, they gave up the hope that allied forces would come and set them free. They could stand all of the challenges in their lives because of the hope. But when they lost the hope, they experienced hell on earth.

This morning, St. Paul proclaims to us “May the God of hope give you joy and peace in believing that you will be filled with hope, that you will be abounding with hope, and that you will be overflowing with hope for the future.”
What do these words mean for you? What does it mean for you to be abounding in hope? In the Book of Hebrews, we hear God’s Word which says, “With strong encouragement, seize the hope set before us.” In First Peter, God says, “We have been born to a new and living hope through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hope in the Bible means to trust that God’s future is for us. Faith means to trust in God in the here and now; but hope means to trust in God’s future. To realize that God is in control of all future history and is in control of our personal history. To realize that God will not desert us in the decades and the centuries ahead of us. That is, no matter what happens in our lives, our future belongs to God.

We live in a season when the sign of God’s hope is the greatest. The coming of Jesus means the coming of hope. Not only is Jesus the prince of peace but also he is the prince of hope. Our hope is coming. Take a look at ourselves. Do we hope big enough to celebrate the coming of Jesus and to receive the power of hope from him? This season abounds with hope. We are filled with hope. We are overflowing with hope that the God, who has taken care of us in the past and today, will take care of us in the future, no matter what the future may bring.

Let me wrap up today’s sermon with a person who had a passionate hope for the future. Her name was Anne Sullivan. She had a driving hope that a young girl by the name of Helen Keller who was deaf and blind would be able to read, write and communicate. Anne Sullivan had a driving hope to teach this little girl, who was untrainable and undisciplined. Sullivan taught her to read, write and communicate. She did not give up hope. She didn’t quit. She didn’t give up hope and say, “This is an impossible job. This is an impossible task.” No, not at all. And now, Helen Keller has become indeed a legend.
What I am saying is that we Christians have a driving hope. We have a living hope. We have a hope for God’s reign of justice, love and peace for the earth. We also hope for God’s reign of justice, love and peace in this little personal world of ours.

I love what Soren Kirkegaard, the great Danish philosopher, said about hope. His definition of hope is “hope is the passion for the possible.”
When the God of hope lives inside of us, God gives us peace and joy in believing, and we abound in hope. We are filled with hope, we are overflowing with hope, and we are imbued with hope. We will experience our lives filled with a new hope from God.

Let us pray, Loving God, we give thanks to you for your Word. We believe that we are living with the hope that the Lord will come in peace. Now help us to prepare the way of the Lord and to make a room for God in this mysterious season. And bless us to enjoy this season within your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. Amen.