Sermon: Praise the Lord

Date: September 23, 2018

 

Text: Psalm 148

Title: Praise the Lord!

 

When I was 8 years old, my father moved to the countryside of Korea where he took a new church as a pastor. It was a small village where most people worked as farmers. After school, most of my friends went to the fields to help their parents with fertilizing the soil, sowing the seeds, or harvesting in the fall. Although we did not own a farm, my mother made a small garden next the parsonage where she planted flowers, vegetables, and fruits. She would spend hours working in her garden. One day, my mother, while working in her garden, turned to me and said, “Look at these flowers. Look how beautiful they are. As they wave in the wind, don’t you think that they are singing and praising God, their Creator?” As she was humming the melody of a hymn, it still lingers in my ears like yesterday.

The Psalmist also sings and praise the Lord. He says that everyone needs to praise the name of the Lord. It is not just human beings that praise God. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures. You mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds. The Psalmist says that everything created in the world should praise God because at God’s command, they are all created. It is God who has established them forever and also issued a decree that will never pass away, which is the natural law that governs the movement of the universe.

Have you visited a place and witnessed the grace of God in the beauty of God’s creation? In August 2003, I was studying English in Sydney, Australia. Toward the end of my stay there, I decided to travel from Sydney to Melbourne with my friend from college. If you drive the car straight to Melbourne, it takes about 8 hours. But we traveled by the shore enjoying the ocean road, which took us about 15 hours in car. Our second evening, we stopped the Phillips Island where we could see penguins come out of the oceans. There were about 50 people sitting on the beach, not being able to take pictures because the flashlight could make them go blind. I was surrounded by the sound of waves, sea gulls, and wind. We sat and waited for about one hour. And there, in the middle of dark evening, we saw hundreds of penguins come out of the ocean and make a little parade right next to us, heading toward their nests.

When I saw the miraculous actions of these penguins, I could do nothing but praise God who designed God’s creature with instinct and beauty. I am sure that many of you have witnessed something like that in your lives. Maybe when you visited Niagara Falls for the first time and heard the might sound of the water fall, you praised God in awe. Maybe when you visited the Grand Canyon and saw the eagles flying high, you gave thanks to God for allowing you visit there while you still breathed. Maybe you did not have to travel that far to witness the wonderful hands of God. Just like my mother, you sowed the seeds of flowers at your garden. When the spring came, you saw the little plants come out with life and blossom into beautiful flowers. Winter was there. But spring surely comes. And you praised God for the faithfulness of God at your little garden.

The Celtic Christians also had wisdom in joining the creation of God for praise. In the Celtic Spirituality, there is a sense of unity with all creation, both human and nonhuman, that transcends time and space. Its unity brings the whole world together as participants in the singing of one great hymn of praise. In the Celtic tradition, there is a story about a mother who tells her children that each day must start with the human voice joining in the song of the birds, since in the whole created order, all the creatures of earth, ocean, and sky were giving glory to God, it was foolish for the human beings not to join them. So from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, from the literate and the illiterate, from the earliest to the present day, we have the same message: Join in the worship of the whole universe. Alexander Carmichael says in Carmina Gadelica, “it is dumb of us not to join the creation of God in their giving glory to God.” (Esther De Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer)

I know that we often have a difficult time to praise God. From time to time, in our spiritual journey, we encounter trials and tribulations along the way. We often suffer loss, grief, loneliness, illness. We feel not appreciated and loved as we are. How can we still celebrate and praise God? As I drove around the town this week, I start to notice some red on the trees. It means that they are changing their color from green and red. No one told them to change their color. But they obey the words from their Creator. And they praise God even though they might lose all their leaves soon and even wither during the cold winter. But they still praise God because the spring is surely coming after the long night and cold weather. In the same way, the Celtic Christians also lived with a rhythm keeping the relationship between the light and the dark, both winter and spring. The Celtic year begins with the feast of Samhaine on November 1, when darkness overtakes the light. By entering the season of winter, the Celtic Christians considered their life as the gift of God, not something to control.

When we realize that the main purpose of God’s creation is to praise God, and that all God’s creation is already praising God whether we join them or not, the boundary between what is sacred and what is secular collapses. This whole world reflects the wonderful hands of God who has created everything with power, grace, and love. When we talk in the woods thinking that we are having some alone time for ourselves, we are actually surrounded by the nature that is already praising God in their very beings. Our walk turns to a time of celebrating and rejoicing along with God’s creation. As Beth Richardson beautifully writes in Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me, we see the bird nest looking fragile and sitting on the electrical box. As we see the protection of the eggs by the mother bird, we rejoice with them in our praise of God who also protects God’s people and creation, giving us what we need for today and tomorrow.

Because life is seen as the gift of God, we are enabled to fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving. As we give thanks to God for the material world and nurture the gratitude and reverence, we become a more faithful stewards entrusted to preserve the earth rather than exploit and destroy it. As we glimpse the presence of God surrounding all God’s creation and the universe, we also give thanks to God for the mundane activities of daily work. When we appreciate the goodness through God’s creation, our response is not complaints or grumbling. But it is gratitude and thankfulness. Even when we sleep at night and rest, God still grows the crops on the field with morning dews, wind, sunlight, and rain. We often think that it is us who needs to do all the works. But even when we fail to do our works, God is still faithful in providing us, helping us, and saving us.

Amen.

 

Sermon: God with Us

September 16, 2018, Celtic Worship: Bless to Me #1

 

Text: Psalm 113

Title: God with Us

 

Many of us feel that we are always running. We wake up. We are late for the work or for the school for our children. We hurry to where we need to be. When we are busy, there is always someone who is blocking our way in front. We often grumble, “Why do they have to block the road at this time and do the construction work?” We quickly stop by a coffee house. We hurry to work. As we sit, we quickly go over the agendas for the day. I need to get this done. I need to meet someone. I need to travel to a meeting. We go and shop at the grocery store with so many on the lists. We come home. Our children are back from the school. We have dinner, but we rarely talk. Mother asks her child how his day was at the school. “Fine. I am done with the dinner. Can I just go to my room and play the game?” The couple sit at the table and frustrated with all the bills and mortgage that are due. Everyone is tired. They go to bed.

Every day, it is the same routine. It is about our works. It is about our children. It is about our marriage. It is about our plan for an upcoming vacation. It is about paying the bills. It is about checking with our doctor. It is about driving from one place to another. It is about volunteering here and there. It is about exercising at the gym. It is about planning for the retirement and how my pension will pay all the bills. Although we all come from different places, if you are like me, we tend to fill our schedule with so many to-do lists. After all, that is one of many legacies from the Protestants – the work ethics. We need to work every day and every hour. That is also what we teach our children. If you want to succeed with your career or education, you need to work hard and earn it. And often working hard means being busy.

In our busy schedule, whether retired or not retired, young or old, we often push God to the margin of our time because we just do not have time for God. Well, I go to the church on Sunday and give my time to God through worship. It is like another checkbox. Did I take my medication for today? Check. Did I call my friend for our upcoming dinner? Check. Did I buy the Christmas gifts for my children? Check. With all the lists in our schedule, we might ask, “Did I have time to read the Bible? Did I have time to worship God?” Check. If our daily schedule is like a zero-sum, we try to allocate our time to everyone who deserves our attention with equal piece of a pie. But we often experience that our life does not have time to give full attention to God, our relationship with our Creator. We just don’t’ have a time for prayer.

What if our everydayness is a form of prayer? What if our prayer is immersed in everything we do? We embark on a journey, or pilgrimage, to deepen our knowledge of Celtic Christianity from today for the next seven weeks. When we say Celtic Christianity, we refer to certain features of Christianity, distinctive from Western Christianity including the Catholic Church and Protestants. The word, the Celt, implies wanderers who resided outside the Roman Empire. By region, it covers Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Galicia in Spain. While many cities in the Roman Empire became urbanized with the philosophical and cultural influence that tended to rationalize Christianity, many people in Celtic Christianity lived in rural areas, touching the stone and water, overlooking the ocean, feeling the breeze from the hill, looking the sky touching the earth.

We will have more time to learn about these people. But one of the features common to many Celtic Christians was this. They lived their lives in the form of prayer. They considered their waking, breathing, working, resting, cooking, cleaning, or sleeping as a way to pray and please God. They lived their lives in a way that Emmanuel – God is with Us, was not just a statement of faith, but reality. Because they believed that their very being was grounded in the presence of God, many of their prayer words included, encircle, encompass, uphold, and surround. As Christ came through the incarnation and dwelled among people, Celtic Christians believed that God was in every moment of their lives from the morning to evening.

In Psalm 113, the Psalmist sings, “Praise the Lord, Praise the name of the Lord. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” We encounter the word “praise” in the Bible so many times. But there are seven different specific meanings to “praise.” The one used in Psalm 113 is Hallal. When we say, “Hallelujah,” it comes from this base word, “Hallal.” While the other Hebrew words for praise are translated as “praise God with extended hands, praise God with a musical instrument, praise God with knees on the ground,” Hallal is this. “To praise, to boast, to celebrate, to be clamorously foolish.” When we often pray, it is often about what we ask of God. “God, I want you to do this for me.” There is nothing wrong with it. But when we speak of Celtic blessing, it mainly our offering of a prayer of gratitude. We bless God for what God has done and given us.

Of course, we often have a hard time of praying to God or praising God in times of difficulties. How can we sing of the glory of God in times of death and sorrow? How can we praise God in times of earthquake and hurricane? How can we celebrate God in times of illness and emptiness? The tradition tells us that Jesus sang Psalm 113 along with his disciples before he went to pray at Mount Olive where he would be arrested by the soldiers and priests. In sensing the imminent danger and peril, Jesus still did not forget to praise God who was surely walking with him. Although we tend to have our own picture of the destination of success, health, and victory, Celtic Christians understood the Holy Spirit who blows where it wills. Jesus’ praise of God stemmed from his trust in God who knows where we come from and knows where we will go.

St. Patrick is one great example, a person who never stopped praising and praying to God, especially never losing his praise under challenging circumstances. In the 5thcentury, Patrick was born in Roman Britain. At the age of 16, he was captured by a group of Irish pirates. He was enslaved in Ireland for six years. In Confession, Patrick says that his time in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. It was during this time of slavery he encountered God and became a Christian while working as a shepherd and praying to God. Later, he escaped from slavery by traveling to a port, two hundred miles away. Although Patrick became a free man, he then had a vision in his dream that God was calling him to go back to Ireland and be a missionary. And he did. And he wrote a poem and prayer right before converting the king of Ireland. It is called “Breastplate.”

 

Christ with me

Christ before me

Christ behind me

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me

 

For St. Patrick and many Celtic Christians who have gone before us, prayer was not a practice to be added to our busy schedule. Instead, prayer was the mode of our being. We praise God when we wake up for giving us another day of blessing. We praise God when we breathe for there is air provided by God. We praise God when we drink coffee, for those who worked hard to plant the beans, grew them, roasted them, and brewed them for us. We praise God when we are stuck in the traffic so we can sing a hymn praising God without minding others. We praise God when we sit at the table for a meal, for the day God has given us, for the friends our children met, for the meals that many worked hard. If we believe that God fills the earth with the grace of God, we let God also fill our hearts with gratitude, joy, imagination, love, and peace.

For this coming week, I would like to suggest this as a way of prayer for us. Adam Hamilton is pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. He once preached a sermon on baptism and invited his congregation to remember their baptism each day. To do so, he prepared a prayer card and encouraged his audience to hang it in their shower and recited each time they stepped into the shower. The prayer goes as follows,

 

“Lord, as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism

Wash me by your grace. Fill me with your Spirit

Renew my soul

I pray that I might live as your child today and honor you in all that I do.”

 

Some of you might think that this is too long. Then I encourage you to say this instead,

“I am a child of God.” Let each morning begin with praise of God who walks with us from the sunrise to the sunset. Let each morning start with gratitude remembering that it is God who gives us another day with purpose. Let each morning also begin with excitement for what God will be doing in this world through us, and with us.

Sunday School @ 9:30 am, Worship Service @ 10:45 am

On September 9, we celebrate Homecoming Sunday with starting the new year of Sunday school.

Our Sunday school is from 9:30 am to 10:30 am. We have several dedicated teachers who are not only parents of young children but teachers with big hearts. Our Sunday school is  offered to Pre-K, elementary, Middle school this year. We have also the adult class that takes place at the same time.

Our worship time changes now to 10:45 am. We welcome anyone who explores their relationship with God and desires to deepen it through passionate worship. Our worship integrates both traditional and contemporary music.

We welcome you to our church. We invite you to find new church home here. We wish to be your church family.

Vacation Bible School

Our church is hosting an exciting VBS this year with the theme of “Rolling River Rampage” Please send your children (Pre-K to Elementary) so that they can learn what it means to adventure in our lives trusting in the hands of God.

 

Time

July 27 (Friday) 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

July 28 (Saturday) 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

 

Place

Living Faith UMC (53 Grove St. Putnam, CT 06260)

 

Online Registration

 

Small Group Study in May/June

Our small group study will meet to discuss Our Strangely Warmed Hearts. 

Rev. Karen P. Oliveto, the author, was elected as a bishop of the United Methodist Church in 2016. She was the first woman to serve as the senior pastor at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, the fifth largest congregation of the UMC. She is also the first openly lesiban bishop.

The United Methodist Church will gather for Special Conference in 2019 in which we as denomiation will set the course for its future especially regarding our doctrinal stance of homosexuality. The Council of Bishops has adopted the suggestion by the Commission of a Way Forward with One Church plan that endorses theological flexibility for each pastor, congregatoin, and annual conference.

While the future of the UMC is unclear at the moment, we encourage our congregation to pray for our denomination first. We also invite our congregation to be equipped and prepared more theologically and spiritually by studying the history, stories, and theological argument of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters within the UMC.

 

Schedule

May 27 (Sunday) 9:30 am – 10:30 am  Chapter 1: The Gay Liberation Movement

June 3 (Sunday) 9:30 am – 10:30 am  Chapter 2: The UMC and Homosexuality

June 10 (Sunday) 9:30 am – 10:30 am Chapter 3: Here I am, Chapter 5: Coming Out While Going In, Chapter 5: Living at the Intercsection

June 17 (Sunday) 9:30 am – 10:30 am  Chapter 6: How Long, O Lord? Chapter 7: Closets No More, Chapter 8: We Shal Be Made Perfect in Love in This Life

 

The book is availalbe in the church. The book price is $10.

 

Laughing with God!

We are celebrating Easter on April Fools’ Day this year. One might say, “Christ is risen.” “Really?” “Well, it is April Fool’s Day.” It is something that does not make sense scientifically. But it is a witness that has passed down to us through the Church from the empty tomb. On this day, the religious authority, military threat, fear, and death became objects of God’s laughter when Christ was risen from death. We invite you to join us for five weeks sermon series and small group study with a theme, “April Fools! Laughing with God”
April 1 (Easter) – Laughing with God at Death
April 8 – Laughing with God at the Impossible
April 15 – Laughing with God at Legalism
April 22 – Laughing with God at Respectability
April 29 – Laughing with God at Life
The small group study is at 9:30 am on Sunday. Our worship starts at 10:45 am. We invite you to join us and laugh with God together.
*The sermon series and small group study are developed by Doug Damron, Jonathon Kollmann, Jim Stauffer.

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Easter Egg Hunt

We invite you to come and join us for Easter Egg Hunt with your family and children.

ALL ARE WELCOME! 

Place: Parsonage (26 Eden St, Putnam CT 06260)

Time: March 31 (Saturday) 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

 

Lunch with hot dogs and burgers

We will play some games that are fun and meaningful for the children.

 

If you have any question, please contact Pastor Bob at 508-685-6291 or revbobjon@gmail.com

 

Happy Easter!!

MLK Breakfast on January 15

 

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Time: January 15 (Monday) 2018. 8:00 AM

Keynote Speaker: Rev. Mike Clark, “The Life and Legacy of MLK”

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Special Music from TMHS Modern Music Ensemble

Breakfast Price: $8 per adult. $4 per child.

 

We are grateful local business/organizations that have donated toward this event generously.

American Legion, Post 13
Cargill Council No. 64
Gerardi Insurance
Greater Putnam Interfaith Council
King GMC
Knights of Columbus
Putnam Bank