Last week and 150 years ago at Gettysburg, Lincoln spoke two minutes. Edward Everett, the keynote speaker, spoke two hours. Lincoln read the 271 words written on a sheet of paper. On this Baptismal Sunday and the Bible Study I wish I could deliver a two minute sermon. Actually we are struck by God’s grace, not listening to a long sermon but just one biblical passage somewhere! St. Paul quotes one verse from Habakkuk: “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) That’s the key passage of his entire letter. As John Wesley listened to that one sentence on May 24, 1738, he was struck by it, and his heart felt warm. Then, how can we live by faith? By listening! “Faith comes from listening to the words of God.” (Romans 10:17) Therefore it is important for us to listen to the words of God every day by reading the Bible. Many people nowadays leave church, not because the church has provided no good programs, but because modern people have felt the absence of God in their lives. News media in the modern era always bombards us day and night, mostly bad news. As a result, as God says, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11), we have not only a famine of words of God but also many anxieties. In my case, Zen Buddhism has always been helpful, because it has helped me to meditate on the words of God as a discipline. Therefore, on this Bible Sunday my message is simple: Read the Bible and meditate on the words of God every day! Some people read the newspaper, not the Bible. Karl Barth, the renowned theologian said, the faithful Christians should read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other every day!
Today, it is also Christ the King Sunday. When Jesus was asked by the Roman authority if He is a King, “I am the King,” he answered. A statement one would think bordering on madness, or at least severe delusion, or at best, pathetic. And yet Christ is the King. In his “Coronation Mass” performed on Easter Sunday in 1779 in Salzburg, Mozart depicts Christ as the King with his artistry. So it is nicknamed “Coronation Mass.” Jesus on the cross speaks: “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) For a dying man, a convicted and confessed thief, these words uttered by the crucified Christ must have caused sheer ecstasy in that final, painful, dying moment. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” I wish we could hear those words from Jesus at the last moment of our death bed. Then we shall die very peacefully and happily. The grace of God is a word of forgiveness and his deep, abiding love. It is hard for us to believe in the forgiving God, the God who would love us even when we disappoint him and sin. One of Jesus’ parables, “The Prodigal Son” manifests that kind of divine love. Christ the King reigns in His kingdom with that kind of divine love. In that sense, His kingdom does not belong to this world, although it is in it.
Today is also Thanksgiving Sunday. The Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give yourself that you truly give.” How would you respond to divine love in which Christ gives himself to you? Definitely by giving him your sacrificial love. The God-given standard of giving is, at least, a tithe. 10% of our income. We believe God’s promise: “Put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (Malachi 3:10b) We believe that. However, even if it seems that God does not bless, we would be happy that we have tried to share, at least, 10% of our income for the church and for the poor. For if we offer 10% of our income to God, the remaining 90% becomes sacred, and it will be richly productive in our spending in God’s blessing. It is in the same spirit of tithing that we set the apportionment, which is about 10% of our church income. We believe that God will bless our church, if we do tithe as a church. However, even if it seems that God does not bless, we will be happy, because we have been sharing about 10% of our church income for the United Methodist Church and for the poor around the world.
Finally, let me quote a few lines from Paul Tillich, a theologian of existentialism: “In all expressions of gratitude towards others, the object of our thanks is usually visible. We know at least whom to thank, and what for, although we often do not know how to thank. But there is also gratefulness that is, so to speak, without a definite object towards which to turn. This is so not because we do not know the object, but there is no object. We are simply grateful. Thankfulness has taken hold of us, not because something special has happened to us, but just because we are, because we participate in the glory and power of being. It is a mood of joy, but more than a mood, more than a transitory emotion. It is a state of being.” Of lately, I often experience this kind of “euphoria,” a state of silent gratefulness. What a blessing in this world of famine, war, illness and accident! So I wonder how we can manage this kind of euphoric state of being, a state of silent gratefulness to be extended longer and more predominant than a state of anxiety. The only answer I find is to have good faith in the good Lord, Christ the King! My dear friends in Christ!
To allow for the less fortunate members of the church community to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving... There will be a free Thanksgiving Dinner Service at the fellowship hall of Trinity United Methodist Church November 28 1PM-5PM