Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Preacher: Rev. Joseph Kwon
Scripture: Psalm 138
Message: You Make Me Live Again
It seems that the surge of Omicron Variant infection is slowing down. We are taking every measurable step to keep each other safe, and as an ongoing effort to safe gatherings, I am here in front of a camera, sending you peace and payers. May you and your family be safe in this time of turbulence and hardship.
We have been fighting this Coronavirus for over 2 years now, and it seems that it’s going to stay with us a long time. This is the hardest battle we all have to fight. Coronavirus had impacted us more than we could ever imagine - financial hardships, inflation, unemployment, the rapid surge of the housing market and homelessness, physical and mental sufferings, online-learning fatigues for young students, the rise of teenage suicides and gun violence, and the list goes on.
This is on top of every death we have lost because of the coronavirus. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for our front-line hospital workers, nurses, and doctors’ restless days and nights for caring for the covid patients.
This is not all. We still hear the news of wars and violence around the globe. We still have to fight climate change/global warming that causes natural disasters. We still have a long way to go in pursuing racial justice, gender equality, eradication of classism, national extremism, consumerism, capitalism. We have a lot of battles to fight.
And how about our inner battles? Don’t we have constant battles of judgment, greed, anger, sadness, lust, malice, jealousy, depression, comparison, competition, discrimination, arrogance, and selfishness? We all have battles to fight. Whether they are emotional battles or physical battles, we all fight for survival.
I have my own battles to fight. I constantly fight for the gaze against my skin color, even more so when the pandemic began. I fight against the stereotypes that limit who I am - as an Asian, as a Korean with an accent, as a pastor, and I fight against loneliness as a celibate, against the fear of the uncertain future without financial resources. I have been beaten, left alone, and been judged. Still, I am afraid when I get a hostile gaze of someone because I look different or because I think differently.
At the end of the day, when I shed all of these battle clothes off, I close my eyes and seek God’s face to help me through this life and win this battle of life. As I have been meditating on today’s Psalm, there is one particular verse that I recited over and over again. “Whenever I am in deep trouble, you make me live again; you send your power against my enemies’ wrath; you save me with your strong hand.” (Verse 7)
This past week was particularly hard for my family because my parents received a notice to vacate their business from their landlord. After the pandemic hit, their dry cleaning business did not make enough profit and now they are losing their business after the long hard work of 24 years. As a child to my parents, I feel worthless and weak because I could not help them. And I recite this verse again, “Lord, my parents are in deep trouble, you make them live again.” My parents are once again, fighting another hard fight at old age.
We all have hard battles to fight. When the strong waves push us to stumble, I hope that we remember there is God who can rescue.
Today’s Psalm is about God who rescued and delivered God’s people to safety. It is a Song of Thanksgiving. Some might say this was written by King David after he conquered Palestine and surrounding regions and established a peaceful kingdom. By looking back on his days soaked in the blood of his fellow soldiers and enemies, King David was giving thanks to God for protection and guidance until his established days for peace and prosperity. Some might say this was sung by post-exilic Hebrew people who were able to restore their community and the Jerusalem temple, praising and giving thanks to God for their deliverance and restoration. In retrospect, they thought about the days of captivity and the days they failed to honor God. So they have sung this song of praise and thanksgiving not because of what they had done, but because of who God was - God of loyal love and faithfulness. Either way, this song of thanksgiving rose from agony and time of affliction. And the song - singing Psalms - gave King David or the people of Israel strength to face their days of hardship and turmoil.
The Bible has multiple accounts of winning the battles by praising God - sounding their trumpets and shouts of praises. Absolute reliance on God wins the battle of our lives. And the songs of thanksgiving strengthen us to face our difficulties.
I like to believe that this Psalms was written by King David. He wrote the most beautiful and powerful songs of hymns when he faced the darkest time of his life. Verse 7, “Whenever I am in deep trouble, You make me live again” speaks so truly to me. It is so powerful and I need that strength of God today to live again. The songs I sing when I am happy are great and joyful, but the songs I sing when I am down and in deep trouble, they sustain me and give me hope and strength. They become my prayers and I find God in my suffering.
This idea of finding God in the midst of pain and suffering is well highlighted in today’s parallel texts in the Book of Isaiah and Luke. The stories of Isaiah and Peter when they encountered the divine presence of God and Jesus, both paint a similar picture. God or Jesus calls them to do God’s work. They fell down on their knees and worship God or Jesus as they confess that they are sinners. They both lived in turbulent times of oppression, violence, and injustice. They both longed for God’s righteousness to be revealed. They both wanted to see justice and peace restored in their lives, longing for the Messiah. God appeared in the middle of their battleground. God Embraced them with a vision of heaven that made them overcome their anguish and fear of daily challenges. They witnessed God's divine presence when they were in the deepest place of despair and worthlessness.
This is the way of God. God’s presence rests upon those who are weak and powerless, upon those who face corruption, irrationality, and violence against their will. When their hearts are pierced with endless sighs and sorrows, God comes to them and reveals God’s holiness. This does not happen to those who are in the center of power, but to those who are at the margins of power, alienated and wronged. When the power of God’s presence comes, one can only be wrapped around by the beauty and goodness of God’s heart. And all of the despair, sorrow, inferiority, and fear melt away, but what is left with is one’s true self. Confessing who God is and who we are is the starting point of rising up and of restoration.
When God calls our names and reminds us who we are in God, our place on this earth becomes meaningful because the world is filled with hatred, indifference, and heartlessness. God wants us to change the atmosphere of fear and disbelief of this world. And the Psalm reminds us that. Certainly, I will remember and sing this song of thanksgiving during all the battles I struggle with rises.
I know I can endure them with the song that rises from my deepest heart, seeking God’s presence. I know God’s presence is with me and poured on me when God called my name. I need to keep going with the song in my heart that gives me hope and strength, confessing who God is and what God has done for me. I will look tomorrow for what God will do for me.
I hope this Psalm of thanksgiving will also be your song of hope and strength when you are facing your own battle. I pray that this song of thanksgiving will be a strength to pass through this time of the pandemic. And I pray that we can fight the good battles together to win our hard circumstances.
Order of Worship
The Community Gathers...
Prelude - Rev. Jerry Asheim
Welcome - Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking
Gathering Music: "As the Deer" The Faith We Sing #2025 - Rev. Jerry Asheim & Cathryn Bruno
Prayer for Illumination - Georgia Wood
Opening Hymn: "God of Grace and God of Glory" UM Hymnal #577 - Rev. Jerry Asheim & Albert Sammons, Jr.
To Hear the Word...
Scripture Reading: Psalm 138 - Pat Bruce-Lerrigo
Children's Message - Susan Jardin
Anthem: "Stand By Me" - Liev
Message: "You Make Me Live Again" - Rev. Joseph Kwon
To Respond and Renew Commitment...
Hymn of Response: "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" - Worship & Song #3002 - Rev. Jerry Asheim & Michele Arreola-Burl
Prayers of the People: "In God’s Hands " - courtesy United Methodists of Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
If you have a prayer request or are interested in longer-term spiritual accompaniment from a Stephen Minister, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Prayer Jesus Taught (The Lord's Prayer)
Our Creator (Father/Mother), who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom (kin-dom) come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom (kin-dom), and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Offering Our Resources and our Energy
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Offertory - Juliana
Prayer of Dedication - Mike Wood
To Go Forth with Love and Compassion
*Closing Hymn: “Spirit Song” UM Hymnal #347 - Rev. Jerry Asheim & Albert Sammons, Jr.
Sending Forth - Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking
Postlude - Rev. Jerry Asheim
Special Thanks To:
Preacher: Rev. Joseph Kwon
Worship Leaders: Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking, Rev. Jerry Asheim, Michele Arreola-Burl, Pat Bruce-Lerrigo, Cathryn Bruno, Susan Jardin, Judy Kriege, Albert Sammons, Jr., Georgia & Mike Wood
Guest Musicians: Liev & Juliana
“In God’s Hands” courtesy of United Methodists of Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
Video produce: Tai Jokela
Podcast producer: Ethan Toven-Lindsey
Director of communications: Merrie Bunt
Credits: Liturgy by enfleshed. Hymns reprinted/streamed with permission under ONE LICENSE # A-733809, CCLI Copyright license # 20022935, & CCLI Streaming license # 20476749. All rights reserved.