August 31, 2014 – We are God’s people (guest preacher: Isaac (Ryong Jae) Jung)

John 1:35-42

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift… The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

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August 31, 2014 John 1:35-42, Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13, Jeremiah 1:4-10

We are God’s people Isaac (Ryong Jae) Jung

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Good morning church. I am glad to be here with you on this beautiful and glorious Sunday. I am so honored to meet you and worship with you today. I pray that the Holy Spirit will come to all of us here and bless each one of us. Welcome all of you in the name of Jesus Christ.

I have questions this morning that I’d like you to consider: Who are we? What do we live for? Where are we heading? Some people cannot answer these basic questions of life.

Who are we? We were chosen by God, who adopted us into his family; therefore, if we are believers, we are the precious children of God. We have to remember that it is not by accident or by our own choice that we are here, worshipping God, today. God has chosen and called us from eternity before the world began, leading us here today. We are truly blessed children of God. As precious children of God, we must know the purpose of God’s calling for us.

If you carefully hear today’s scriptures, you most likely found one key word that summarizes all three passages. The key word is “call.” What is the call? When I began my ordination process in the UMC, I had to ponder deeply upon what “the call” of God would be in my life. Even though I could not say a great story about my calling, the District Committee accepted me as a candidate for ordained ministry.

And God calls not only pastors—He calls all believers, equally, to some form of ministry. Our individual call is extremely precious and special and shapes us through our lifetimes.

Today’s passage in Jeremiah describes how God called Jeremiah, son of a priest, in the time of Josiah, king of Judah. Jeremiah ministered as a prophet for about 40 years; his ministry ended when Judah was destroyed. In those days, Judah, the southern kingdom, was falling apart because the people were worshipping idols.

What should we learn from God’s calling of Jeremiah?

First, God knows us. God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” When God said that he knew Jeremiah, God meant that He knew everything about him. Indeed, God knows everything about us. Even though people do not know our hearts, the trouble we are in, our sorrows, or our hopelessness, God knows everything about us. When we are in deepest despair, if we are losing our will to live, or in agony, unable to sleep, crying until dawn – other people do not know what we are going through. However, our God knows exactly how we feel and draws close to us, wiping away our tears and lifting us from the place of despair.

Let me tell you my story. I am originally from Seoul, Korea. For many of you, Korea is known for the Korean War during the 1950s, as well as the recent success of its high-tech brands such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and Kia. You may also know Kimchi is Korean food.

In the early 1900s, American missionaries who devoted their lives and passions to Christ and to the Koreans did ministry with my great grandmother, who set up seven Methodist Churches in Korea. Because of my heritage, I grew up as a Christian in a fourth-generation Methodist family.

Now God has led me here to study theology in the United States and I am being trained to be an ordained pastor who will serve a congregation in the UMC.

God knew me even before I was born. Even more, God helped me prepare for all circumstances and provided for all my needs while gearing me for the ministry. Through my training here in Bourne and in my studies at Boston University School of Theology, I have become more confident in my ministry and my perspectives have broadened.

My wife and I sometimes experience fear and loneliness because we are living separately from our family in Korea. But, God gave us new family like you, our church members. My wife and I also are expecting our first child. God knows all things about us even before they happen.

Jesus called me from South Korea to America and this church. Jesus called you to this church. As a church, we are called to meet, to have a spiritual relationship with God, and to follow Jesus Christ together here and now. It is absolutely by the grace of God that we are here today. Even if you are a newcomer, you are here today by God’s calling, not because someone invited you, since you were chosen by God from eternity before the world began. I strongly believe that we are here today because of a clear call from Jesus Christ for each one of us.

Second, God gives us a mission. God gave a mission to Jeremiah when He told him, “for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.” We do not do the work of God through our own might or power; rather, we do it through the power of the Holy Spirit. What we have to do is obey the Word of God and be continuously indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

On Easter Sunday morning in 1885, five American missionaries—two Presbyterians and three Methodists—arrived in Korea on the same boat. They introduced Protestant Christianity to Korea for the first time. But we, Methodists say that the first denomination was Methodist not Presbyterian — because the married woman Methodist missionary was first to set foot on Korean soil from the boat. “Always ladies first.”

Cataumet and Bourne UMC each represents over 200 years of Christian ministry. My home church is Chungdong First Methodist Church in Seoul, the oldest Protestant church in Korea, established in 1885 by Rev. Henry Appenzeller, husband of the pioneering Methodist missionary who was first to step off the boat. God called these missionaries to go to Korea and show the love of the Jesus to the poor and hungry. They obeyed and preached the love of the Jesus to Koreans. God called them to serve Koreans; so, they served throughout their lives.

From these first seeds of faith, Korea has sent many missionaries around the world to serve the people of God. Now South Korea sends the second most missionaries in the world, behind only the United States.

I also believe that God led me in my childhood to the life of faith through the abundant love of the Christian community. About 100 years ago, Christians in the United States responded to God’s calling. Missionaries and those who gave offerings built hospitals, schools, and churches, following God’s call. I was born in a hospital established by an American missionary. My wife and I graduated from colleges established by American missionaries. We met in a church and married in the church that grew from seeds planted by American Christians — who came all the way to Korea to impart healing and salvation to the Korean people. I deeply appreciate God and the obedience of your ancestors.

God appointed Jeremiah and gave him a mission. In the same way, God appoints us and uses us to do His work on earth by giving us a mission.

What is your mission? How have you been called to be God’s child?

Our past will not come back to us. But if we are changed in this moment, dedicating ourselves to God, our future will create a new history. When God calls you and gives a mission to you, go forward with confidence. No matter what others may say, no matter what persecution you may endure, go forward toward the goal of your calling. I pray that you will each receive God’s mission according to your talents, and that you will dedicate your lives to God. This is my earnest prayer to God for you. God calls us. Each of us. Everyone of us.

Third and last – God is with us. Jeremiah said “but I am only a boy.” But God said to Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you.” God tells us not to fear, not to worry, and not to be anxious. Fear enters our hearts from time to time; it’s part of being human. But God says don’t be anxious.

God’s grace has been the powerful source of my own spiritual journey. I graduated from Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, Korea. I believe that God had trained me for the ministry before I sensed my calling. At first I was not sure if God was calling me to ordained ministry. I had my doubts.

So I became a math teacher. One day, I attended a Bible study at my church. During that time, my key Bible passage was Isaiah 43:1-2 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” After a few day, I decided to go to a spiritual retreat center, to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and discern God’s plan for my life. I attended a worship service there and heard the sermon with the same text, Isaiah 43:1-2, that I read a few days earlier in the Bible study.

I tried to escape God’s calling because I was afraid. I actually have an aptitude for math and science, but I have a lot of difficulty in writing and speaking even in my native language, Korean. I thought that I was not the right person to be a pastor. But I couldn’t hide from God. God continually called me. During the prayer time, I prayed and asked God, “Do you really want me to devote my life to serve you as an ordained pastor?” God answered, “Yes.” The Holy Spirit came to my heart and made me understand God’s plan for my life. Finally, I became aware of my calling. I accepted God’s invitation to serve God as a pastor — even though I still think I do not have any talent for writing sermons and speaking well. Now I am not afraid anymore — because God is with me.

When God is with us, we can handle all things with the help of His power. Since God is with us, no one can do anything against us. God takes care of our lives until the end. Even when we are in danger, even when people are harming us, God is upholding us, protecting us, holding our hands, and guiding us. As God said to Moses in Exodus chapter 3 “I will be with you.”

Since God is with us, marvelous things will happen in our lives. Wherever we go, God will help us plant hope in place of hopelessness; joy in place of sorrow; and good health in place of disease. God’s help will follow us wherever we go.

Ephesians says, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called.” In many places, the Bible declares that God chose us, and we have become His children by believing in Jesus Christ. This is the greatest blessing of all. We are connected, and we are essential to each other.

All Christians are bound together as the body of Christ so that the love of Christ will be magnified. Worshiping together, we remember that we are all connected in the love of God – all of us. Although we are different, if we are Christians, we love and serve one and the same God.

Each and every one of us has a unique calling and vocation. God knows us each intimately, leads us by holding our hands, and helps us to take one step at a time.

And now God calls you to respond to His calling, which is a call to serve others in the way God leads you, as did the people who faithfully followed their God-given vocations before you.

Let us remember how God calls each one of us to be part of the people of God, connected like the parts of a body in the love of God. Let us listen to God’s voice, and respond in remembrance of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. We are God’s people.

I pray that all of us will be used by God as preciously and greatly as Jeremiah was. It is my earnest prayer for you in the name of the Lord. Amen.

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