Pastoral Letter: We Are People of Mission

On June 25, our youth group (9 youth & 9 adults) will travel to Philadelphia for mission trip. The program is hosted by a Presbyterian church in downtown Philadelphia, staffed by about 25 college students. The program draws about 200 youth across the country, as they serve those in need by repairing their houses or work with little children for Vacation Bible School. They will make new friends with people who come from different places economically and socially. They will wonder how people could live with so little. But they will recognize the grace of God that surrounds them with hospitality. They will learn to serve their neighbors as Christ loves them.

We go out to the world because God loves the world. God created the world in God’s love. After God saw all that God had created, God thought that “it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God sent God’s only Son Christ because God loves the world. Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) While many Christians use the scripture verse to condemn the non-confessing Christians, the next verse says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (v.17) Our mission is grounded in the love of God for the world.

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, also understood that the church is never confined within the four walls of a building. As his movement came into conflict with the established church, he decided to go out to the world and preach anywhere he could meet people, especially those on the margins of the society. He went to the house, field, market, and mine. He knew that God was calling the believers out to the world to “save persons, heal relationships, transform social structures, and spread scriptural holiness, thereby changing the world.” (Book of Discipline) Therefore, he proclaimed, “The world is my parish.”

As our youth group spends one week in Philadelphia, I also encourage our congregation in Putnam to pray for everyone who will be working in hot and humid weather. Please pray that we will have a safe travel as we need to drive our own vehicles. Please pray that those whom we serve will experience the love of Christ through our hands and feet. Most of all, please pray that those who go the mission trip will also encounter Christ who blesses them with the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ that is full of love for God and love for neighbors. Please pray that God will bless our church so that we can make more disciples of Christ who will say yes to the way of Christ.

We are people of mission because it is the heart of God. If we believe that God loves the world so much, we also know that God is calling us out into the world. It could be messy. It could be uncomfortable. But the grace of God is stronger than even in the places of messiness and brokenness. And we bring back the blessings to our places and become refreshed in our heart for God and purpose of mission. We are all connected as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our youth group will also travel to Philadelphia carrying all of you in their prayers. May God bless our church as we faithfully respond to the call of God out into the world.

Pastor Bob Jon

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Follow Me …

I came to the Local Licensing School at the Rolling Ridge. I work as one of the faculties staying with the students for six days teaching in lectures and interacting with them. I have been working with LLS for the past eight years. I am usually the youngest one here among the faculty and students.

All these students are here because they heard the call of Jesus, “Follow me.” As Jesus saw Peter and Andrew working at their boat, he has called them out of their own places to follow him in proclaiming the kingdom of God. Some of them have abandoned their jobs and families so that they could follow Jesus.

I remember when I was sitting here as one of the students back in 2008. In being ministry since then, I wonder if I sometimes feel too comfortable where I am and what I do. Somehow I wish to hear the voice of Christ telling me, “Follow me. I will make you fisher of people.” I wish to be rekindled in my heart with the call of Jesus constantly.

I pray that God would bless these students with energy and growth. This is an intense period of study as they begin their day from 7 am and end at 9 pm. I pray that God meets them in their prayer, study, and conversation and remind them that it is none other than Christ who has called them to be here.

 

*Proof that God’s grace is more powerful than our weakness

When I attended LLS as student in 2008, I came out to join the breakfast still wearing pajama. All the other faculties and students already took the shower and dressed for the day. People are looking at me saying, “Bob, are you serious?” Well, I still passed it and am teaching as faculty today. I call it “the grace of God.”

 

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Pastoral Letter: Was Jesus as a Refugee?

 

Christmas Letter – 2016

“Was Jesus a refugee?” One of our small group members on Sunday asked. It seemed that the member was intrigued by the Advent devotional book we have been using – A Different Kind of Christmas. We have many images of Jesus – Jesus our Shepherd, Jesus our Savior, and Jesus our Miracle Worker … etc. But it may sound odd to hear Jesus as a refugee. In Matthew 2:13, we read that an angel of God appears to Joseph warning him to escape to Egypt with his family and stay there, “for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” There was “weeping and great mourning” in the cities as Herod ordered to massacre all the boys in Bethlehem in its vicinity who were two years old and under. So, until Herod died, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived in Egypt as refugees.

People still live as refugees for many reasons today. While we often quickly condemn them as “illegal,” many of them escape their countries in pursuit of freedom, safety, or opportunity. In the U.S. there are as many as 11.4 million undocumented immigrants who constantly live with fear of being deported back to their countries where they often face persecution or even execution in some cases. In response, many church have recently started offering their places as “sanctuary” where the immigrants at risk of deportation could stay. For example, Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia provides sanctuary for Javier Flores who is about to be separated from his wife and three children. Rev. Robin Hynicka, the senior pastor of Arch, says, “For us, we feel it’s a moral obligation to keep families together.” (The Washington Post, Dec 9)

Many might argue that the church needs to be separated from the politics. I have once debated with another pastor who argued, “Churches should not involve with the political or social issues. We need to provide spiritual care to people.” My response was, “How can we provide our spiritual care for people when they suffer politically, socially, or economically?” We do not tell people starving on streets saying, “If you only believe in Jesus, he will save you.” A more faithful follower of Christ is likely to give bread and water first to the person before sharing the gospel of Christ. As a matter of fact, Jesus was crucified on the cross for us not just as our Savior who bore our sins, but also as a political rebel who revolted against the power of the Roman Empire. His movement of faith, love, mercy, and forgiveness was deemed as dangerous to his government and religion.

In this Christmas season, sanctuary movement makes me think about our identity as church – who we are, what we believe, and what we practice. I once had a parishioner who came to tell me, “When people come to the church, they are often not in their best shape.” I agreed with her that many of us come to the church as if a refugee seeks comfort and safety. I am sure that when you were going through some hardships in your life, we felt deeply cared for by the people in the church who shared the love of Christ with you. As we encounter the baby Jesus who sleeps in the manger silently in the midst of turmoil and violence, I believe that we are invited to proclaim “Shalom” in this world when people are anxious and fearful. Emmanuel – God is with us. I sincerely pray that you would witness the baby Jesus born in your family, work, and community who bring the message of peace and joy today.

 

Pastor Bob Jon

Letter: Abundance in God

Pastoral Letter for Thanksgiving 2016

 

When people talk about different denominations within the Christianity, they point out what stands out in each. The Catholic Church with the Eucharist. The Episcopal Church with the liturgy. The Baptist Church with baptism. How about Methodist church? I have heard many say that the Methodist church is all about food. While I am sure that there is more to Methodist church than just food, I believe that they are onto something there. Whenever food is shared, there is fellowship. When people gather at the table together, they share stories, laugh together, and grieve together. Sharing food is a way of sharing our lives together.

We certainly see that the ministry of Jesus could not be separate from food. The first miracle he performed according to the Gospel of John was that he turned the water into wine at the wedding in Canaan. One day, he saw the crowd going hungry while listening to his teaching. Since they had nowhere to go for food, he performed the miracle of feeding five thousand people on five loaves of bread and two fish. When he saw God’s children being reconciled to God, he entered their house and shared foods with them. No doubt that he was accused of being a gluttony because he always hung out with people over food and drinks.

One of my joys serving Living Faith UMC is that I witness the love of God through our ministries of sharing foods. We offer the food items at the Daily Bread and meet people who come from many different places. We sit together with people on Friday as we serve home-cooked meal. I can see that they are deeply touched in their hearts over the warm food. It is just amazing to see that different people come together and form a new community. They may not call themselves a “church.” But in my humble opinion, I witness a community of God, the kingdom of God, where the host of feast is none other than Christ, our Lord.

As Thanksgiving approaches this year, I am sure that all of us will be busy to prepare many foods. I am planning to host one myself on November 23 by cooking turkey, bread stuffing, grave sauce, mashed potato, and macaroni cheese. If you wish to come and join us, please let me know. I know that many will be occupied with where they go for the dinner on Thanksgiving and what time they stand in line for Black Friday shopping. But I pray that we all recognize the presence of Christ at the table who holds our lives together blessing us. Before digging in, hold the hands of your children and family members, give thanks to God for another year of bountifulness, fellowship, and life. Christ is certainly there with you.

If you also wish to practice a spirituality of extravagant generosity, we gently invite you to consider giving to the Daily Bread for the thanksgiving baskets this year. The true spirit of Thanksgiving is grounded in the hospitality for/by the strangers. When the colonists were starving to death, the Native Americans shared hospitality by teaching how to plant, hunt, and survive the harsh winter in New England. It is a day to remember how hospitality brings strangers together overcoming indifferences and animosity. As we reflect whom Jesus sat at the table with, we know that he always befriend with the sinners, strangers, women, and children, I pray that we think about who are silenced, forgotten, and oppressed today. Aren’t they certainly our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we are invited to sit together today?

May God abundantly bless your table of love and hospitality on this wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Pastor Bob