Reflection: June 17: Kingdom of Growth

June 17, 2018 sermon 

Mark 4:26-34

Kingdom of Growth

Since today is Father’s Day, I will start with Jerry Seinfeld’s joke about fathers. He said, “Fathers are intimidating. They are intimidating because they are fathers. Once a man has children, for the rest of his life, his attitude is, “The heck with the world. I can make my own people. I’ll eat whatever I want, I’ll wear whatever I want, and I’ll create whoever I want.” Seinfeld wrote this joke long before he became a husband and father; I wonder how he would feel about this joke as a father. Perhaps, “Yeah! Fathers rule!” Or maybe a sigh? “Being a father is so challenging”? What if the fathers among us have to choose one of these two, which would it be? This past week, I have asked several of our members on what they think father’s role is in children’s life; among many things, the words growth, guidance and mentoring, and even hero came up. But I think these different words are connected to each other.

I personally think a parent’s role, mother or father, is to help the children experience growth. When I say ‘growth’, I’m not talking about physical growth, although it is crucial that children get enough food and nutrients to grow up healthy. Children also have to grow in wisdom and knowledge. Interestingly, today’s two parables are about growth. Both are called kingdom parables because they illustrate what God’s kingdom (or reign) is like. The first one about a man planting the seeds, which grow on their own teaches us that in God’s community, we disciples sow the seeds, but it is God who makes them grow. Repeating what I said last Sunday, if we achieve something great, glory be to God! Remember, it is no longer us who live, but Christ lives in us. God works through us. Another lesson that this parable teaches is that growth happens very slowly and gradually. It is imperceptible. This knowledge gives us patience (because we could get impatient about things not happening fast enough), and hope (because no matter how imperceptible it is, growth DOES happen). The last lesson of this parable is a call for preparedness. Seeds grow, maybe some faster than others. But at the end of this growth comes the harvest. Those that grew well will be harvested, and those that did not prosper will be cut off. It’s like at the end of a semester’s learning, there are final exams. If we were students, we should prepare for the exams, shouldn’t we? Knowing that judgment day is coming, although we don’t know when, we should keep growing in faith and strive to live as faithful citizens of God’s kingdom by loving and serving.  more —>

Reflection: June 10: Ambassadors of Christ

June 10, 2018 sermon 

Isaiah 43:18-21/ 2 Corinthians 4:7-15, 5:17-20

Ambassadors of Christ

Last Sunday at the BC Conference meeting in Penticton, we had a celebration of ministry service, which happens at every conference meeting. Seven candidates were ordained and four were admitted from other denominations, including yours truly. There were a lot of emotions floating around. Our BC Conference president got choked up while ordaining our new ministers and had to pause once in a while. We received gifts from the BC Conference, our children, and from the UCW. One of my colleagues who got ordained, Ingrid, received the children’s gifts from her own two children; everyone cried when they came to the stage. Then there were crying mothers proud of their daughters getting ordained. One mother started crying at 8 o’ clock in the morning at a Star Bucks coffee shop. After the ordination ceremony, I was paired up with Ingrid to serve the Holy Communion. Her mother came up to us to receive the communion, sobbing violently and calling her daughter “reverend” for the first time, making both of us cry. Oh mothers, what would we do without you? And when I say “mothers”, I would like to include anyone who cares for us and “mother” us, men or women, people with or without children. As I am officially admitted into the United Church of Canada, I salute the mothers without whom neither us pastors nor our church would exist.  more —>

Reflection: May 27: God Who Lives in Community

May 27, 2018 sermon (Trinity Sunday)

John 3:1-17/ Isaiah 6:1-8/ Romans 8:12-17

God Who Lives in Community

Since I have taught little children in my former life, I have a mentality of asking myself, how I can help someone understand a certain concept. One week, while preparing for a Bible story, I asked Daniel, “Does Aiden know what death is?” I wasn’t sure if preschool children understand death and dying. This struggle is more prominent in teaching children at church than at school. I think school curriculum is designed to be appropriate for the children’s different developmental stages, but at church, the Bible stories are the same. Yes, some Bibles stories are not appropriate for children, so we might leave them out altogether; but how do we, for example, explain the concept of Trinity; God in three persons? I explain to children that their moms and dads play different roles in different places and with different people but are the same people. One person can be a mom, wife, friend, engineer, and employee. But it’s not only with children; for example, when I was in Kenya, I had to use different anecdotes in my sermons because maybe my other ones are not culturally relatable to the Kenyan Christians. more —>

Reflection: May 20: Then You Will Know That I Am The Lord

May 20, 2018 sermon (Pentecost Sunday)

Acts 2:1-21/ Ezekiel 37:1-14

Then You Will Know That I Am the Lord

Do you remember how recently I have mentioned more than once that the Christian love that God expects of us is seemingly humanly impossible? Yet the author of 1 John says it is not a burden. How can we acquire this power, this ability? When I think of the high standards of the Christian love God expects of us, I think of the story of Corrie ten Boom during the Second World War and the story of a Korean pastor who lived during the Korean War. Corrie was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who got imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for helping Jewish people escape the Holocaust. After the war, she released a book telling her story and gave speeches. There is an anecdote of one such speech; as a Christian, as she was sharing her stories, she preached forgiveness. She then noticed in the crowd her former prison guard who abused and tortured her. Her bad memories, pain, and anger came back. But she had been preaching forgiveness, so how could she not forgive this man? How could she possibly and humanly forgive the man who tortured her? The man had repented his evil after the war and became a new person. He wanted to ask for Corrie’s forgiveness. After the speech, while this man was walking down the aisle to get to Corrie, Corrie was earnestly praying to God to give her the strength and courage to forgive him. During the short time this man was walking down the aisle, Corrie was able to forgive him. How could this be? Is she a superhero? more —>

Reflection: May 13: The Final Countdown

May 13, 2018 sermon (Christian Family Sunday)

John 17:6-19 

The Final Countdown

When I was pursuing my theological studies in New Jersey and working as a student pastor, my theological school dean’s husband David came to my church as an interim pastor. One day I found out that David much prefers to do a funeral than a wedding. I was younger and had no experience doing weddings or funerals, so I couldn’t understand why he would prefer funerals. Now that I am a parish minister and do quite a bit of funerals, I started to appreciate them. Especially, the two funerals I have done recently made me appreciate the process of preparing for and doing a funeral, and I thought of David. Now I think I can understand him. more —>

Reflection: May 6: Discipleship: Love in Action

May 6, 2018 sermon 

John 15:9-17/ 1 John 5:1-6 

Discipleship: Love in Action

I have been moving around a lot both as a child with my family and as an adult, so making friends was not always easy. You might befriend someone and thought they were friends, but they might turn out to be not so serious about their relationship with you. In French, there are two words for “friend”; one is copain, which indicates a friend that you hang out with but your relationship is rather shallow. Then there is ami, which is a true friend with whom you share a deeper relationship. After I came to Montreal 6 years ago, I met some friends who turned out to be amis, and some who turned out to be copains. My friends Mike and Konstantine especially became true pals; Mike was one of the friends who came to Kimberley to get married. I knew they were true friends because they were there for me when I was going through difficulties. For example, when I was heartbroken, Mike was the first person I thought of and called, and he canceled his appointment to come to me. I knew both of them were true pals because they were there for me when I needed them. If someone calls themselves your friend and ignores you when you need them, you will know that they are not really friends. more —>

Reflection: April 29: True Vine, Our Spiritual Mother

April 29, 2018 sermon 

John 15:1-8/ Acts 8:26-40

True Vine, Our Spiritual Mother

Today, we will talk about motherhood. Motherhood is a mystery to me, especially because I haven’t been blessed with that gift. I don’t know what it’s like to have a baby inside me and be physically connected to the baby through an umbilical cord. If a pregnant mom is exposed to bad things, such as bad food or drink, or stress and even trauma, the fetus will be affected. If mom eats good food and thinks good thoughts and feels peaceful and happy, the baby will be peaceful and happy too. No wonder the affinity that a mother feels about her child is special, and to me, mysterious. A little footnote here; I know a lot of fathers who have a deeper and more special relationship with their children, and I don’t mean to leave fathers out here. The only reason I am focusing on mothers is because of the physical connection with the baby during pregnancy. 

I felt the affinity between a mother and a child when I was staying with my mother’s sister for a little while because I was having trouble with my sister. The first night I stayed with her, my aunt came into the bedroom, in the dark when I was in bed, hugged me and comforted me. I became choked up because she felt so much like my mother. 

Anyway, the reason why I am talking about motherhood today is because the connection between a mother and her fetus seems to be the best analogy for our relationship with Christ. Jesus used the analogy of the vine in John chapter 15 because the vine is grown all over Palestine. From what I learned about the vine, although I am not much of a gardener and don’t know much about plants, is that it is a high maintenance plant. From what I understand, the young vine cannot start producing fruit for the first three years, during which time, it goes through constant pruning and “physical training”, so to speak. And the branches that do not produce fruit have to be drastically pruned so they don’t drain away the plant’s strength. It has to be carefully watched and taken care of to stay healthy and produce healthy fruit. The analogy of the vine tree is not something Jesus started; in fact, in many parts of the Hebrew Bible, the nation of Israel is compared to the vine. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.” (Isaiah 5) “Yet I planted you a choice vine.” (Jeremiah 2) “Israel is a luxuriant vine.” (Hosea 10) The vine tree became a symbol for the nation of Israel. They are God’s people; therefore, they are expected to live like God’s people and produce fruit of God’s people. They are the vine tree; therefore, they should produce what the vine tree produces. In John’s community, the members are Christians, the followers of Jesus the Christ. Now the Christians are God’s vine tree. God expects them to produce the fruit of the gospel. That is us; we are Christians. If we have accepted God’s invitation of love and belong to God’s kingdom, our lives have to reflect what we are and what we stand for; the values of God’s kingdom, which are radical love, compassion, and commitment to promote social justice. A vine tree is useless if it cannot produce grapes. A Christian is useless if his or her life doesn’t reflect the values of God’s kingdom. “Abide in me”, says Jesus. He is the vine tree and we are his branches. Just like the fetus cannot survive if the mother isn’t well, branches cannot survive without the tree. For us to survive and prosper, we have to stay put and stick to the tree and receive nutrients from its roots. In other words, we are like the babies connected to the mother through an umbilical cord. The purpose and glory of our identity as the people of God and followers of Jesus is to produce the fruit of the gospel in our lives; live by the values we are taught from Christ. 

As I said, for us to be the branches of the vine tree that produce fruit, we have to stick to the tree; or as Jesus said, “Abide in me.” But what can happen if we abide in Christ, stick to our “mother tree”? What kind of fruit are we talking about? The fruit that we can produce by sticking to the tree or by abiding in Christ is a transformation beyond our human capacity. How can the Holy Spirit transform us, or in what ways? Since we are going through the Easter Season/ the post-Easter time, the Acts of the Apostles is a great book to read and learn from. In today’s story from the Acts of the Apostles, disciple Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch, an officer of his queen’s court. This man seems to be one of the unofficial followers of the Jewish faith called God-fearers, which means he follows and learns from the Jewish faith but has not been officially converted through circumcision. Those who officially converted to Judaism were called procelytes. Now, according to the Jewish Law called the Torah, this eunuch cannot be accepted in the Jewish community. It’s written in Deuteronomy 23:1. Before the gospel of Jesus, before his resurrection and the sending out of his disciples to be the kingdom of God and to make more disciples, they would have been restricted by the Law of Moses. But now that the disciples have received the gospel of Jesus and the Spirit of God, they are no longer restricted by what the Law says; because Jesus taught that it’s the spirit of the Law, the spirit of the gospel, the spirit of God’s kingdom that counts. The gospel of Jesus taught us that everyone is welcome in God’s family; even the eunuchs, homosexuals, transgendered people, Gentiles, those who are deemed unclean according to the Law, and anyone else who is deemed unworthy according to the old law.

There is another story in the Book of Acts that teaches us how God’s Spirit can save us from our prejudices and become more inclusive. In Acts chapter 10, there is a story of Peter changing his mind about accepting Gentiles into God’s community. God shows him a vision to teach him that there is no more boundary of clean and unclean/ worthy and unworthy of God’s love. In today’s chapter 8, Philip ends up baptizing the eunuch; in chapter 10, Peter ends up baptizing a Roman centurion and his family, who are Gentiles. God’s spirit transforms us from our limits, our prejudices. As the result of abiding in Christ and receiving strengths from the Holy Spirit, we should become more loving and accepting. 

We live in a world full of hurts; from natural disasters, accidents, hatred, and greed. Recently our Canada suffered a horrific accident and an act of terrorism. No matter what pushed this young man in Toronto to commit such a horrible act, we do not know for sure. But one thing that is sure is that this world and its people need more love. We need to spread more love to conquer evil. We need love to comfort each other as we go through life’s ordeals. As branches, let us stick to the tree. Everyday, let us consciously spend time with God and wait for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us be transformed by the Spirit and become more loving, caring, and accepting. And with the new transformed identity, let us go out into the world and transform it according to what we received from our True Vine, Christ, our spiritual Mother. 

Rev. Sunny Kim

Reflection: April 8: Like a Child

April 8, 2018 sermon (Holy Humour Sunday)

Matthew 18:1-5/ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Like a Child

I told my wife that she was drawing her eyebrows too high. She looked surprised. Working in a mirror factory is something I can totally see myself doing. A Roman legionnaire walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please.” My wife accused me of being immature. I told her to get out of my fort. I tried to catch a fog yesterday. Mist. When I was little, my parents used to always pretend that food was an airplane. They made me wait for it for hours. Can a kangaroo jump higher than a house? Of course, a house can’t jump at all! “Anton, do you think I’m a bad mother?” “Mom, my name is Paul.” My dog used to chase people on a bike a lot. It got so bad that finally I had to take his bike away. more —>

Reflection: April 1: Do Not Be Afraid

Sermon April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday)

Mark 16:1-8

Do Not Be Afraid

Do you like gardening or keeping potted plants? Unfortunately, I grew up not appreciating it. Whenever my mother asked me, “Did you see how my flowers bloomed?” I would go, “Huh? What flowers?” She was disappointed that I didn’t pay attention to her plants. But since I moved to Kimberley, I discovered the joy of keeping plants and seeing them prosper. I also experienced my plants almost die and then come back to life. It was an exhilarating experience. But what about people? Have you seen a sick person’s colourless face come back alive? How about someone who hit rock bottom, then bounced back? Now they look healthier and happier.  If you stop and think about it, this kind of “coming back to life” moments happen more often than not. And sometimes, even someone who has been dead for a little while can be brought back to life, although maybe not for several days later. more —>

Reflection: March 25: Take up your cross with the Prince of Peace

Sermon March 25, 2018 (Palm/ Passion Sunday)

Mark 11:1-15:41

Take Up Your Cross with the Prince of Peace

When I was reading and meditating on the stories of Jesus’ last days, I remembered a TV show episode where a boy named Will from a tough neighborhood, who was sent to live with his rich relatives after getting into a fight, comes back to his old neighborhood to visit after several years, and discovers that he has a reputation for being a “chicken boy” who ran away from a fight. To recover from that reputation, he prepares himself to confront the same tough boy. But now the tough boy has changed and matured and doesn’t want to fight. Will asks him, “What about your reputation, man?” The former tough boy points at the group of young boys who are with him and says, “See those guys over there? They are my reputation.” He leaves with his friends with mature dignity, and Will is left alone in the playground feeling stupid. I think it takes more courage to refuse to fight. more —>