Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you. It was a wonderful two and half month away from the church. It refreshed my body, mind and spirit. And I am ready for another new beginning with you here at Fairfield Grace. I do know it was entirely possible because of you and your loving kindness. So once again, over and over, I thank you, thank you and thank you.
On the last Sunday of this month, I would like to show some pictures taken during my leave and share my experience during the worship hour.
The today’s gospel lesson tells that Jesus took vacation away from his home base, Galilee.
The region of Tyre was where he stayed for a while. It is presently in Southern part of Lebanon, a beach town commanding a beautiful ocean view. He probably traveled on foot with his disciples for two or three days to get there. There, the lesson reads, “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there.” He wanted to stay alone. He needed time in solitude, in solitude with God.
The first part of my renewal leave was to travel around the Europe for 30 days. I flew to Paris, France on June 15 and return to JFK on July 15. My wife, Kyong Hee was not able to join me because she needed to stay here in CT to take care of her father who’s been having dialysis every day and also do the music ministry at Norwalk United Methodist Church. It happened to be a solo trip in Europe for 30 days in celebration of our 30thanniversary. Some reluctance was there, but I decided to go ahead traveling alone, trusting it would be worthwhile. Yes, it was a lonely and challenging journey, but gave me a chance to be alone, away from her and my family. Slowly I felt some freedom. No one knows me out there. I can do whatever I feel like doing. I can wear as comfortable as I want, always a short pant and a colorful T-shirt. No one notice me. I was a man freely walking around with free spirit like a vagabond. I had a chance to be alone in solitude with God. Traveling alone is not that bad. It is a sure way to get some rest and refreshed.
So I understand better why Jesus wanted to be alone in solitude. He was busy healing, teaching and preaching all the time day and night. People looked for him constantly. He needed a time of rest and renewal and recreation. He got away for a while to get some fresh air and rest.
Yet, Mark tells that he could not escape notice.
A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet and begged him to heal her daughter. We know what happened. Jesus took action and her daughter was restored completely.
Why did Mark include this story in his Gospel? A commentator explains that Mark did it so that we know that Jesus had a learning experience. He learned the ministry of love and healing is not limited by time and space and God’s healing and love needs to be shared even during his vacation at a foreign country with a Gentile woman and her family. He learned and he did as he learned.
By telling so, Mark assures the disciples of Jesus Christ that they are to do the ministry of love and healing anytime, anywhere and to anyone.
During the traveling month, I visited Switzerland. What a beautiful country! High snow-capped mountains got my attention from the first look. I wished I could have stayed there for a long time.
On the first day there, I had to buy the sun-block cream. I went to a small store and got one. And on the way out I heard someone calling me, saying, “You must be a pastor.” I was a bit surprised to know somebody recognizes me in this foreign country. “Do you know me? How do you know I am a pastor?” “Your face tells me you are a pastor.”
Making a long story short, I was caught by a stranger from South Korea and spent the afternoon together. She told me her life story and many difficult problems she face at home, including her marriage trouble. She told me she was in Europe away from home, yearning to find what to do and how to do for the rest of her life. I needed to change my hat to be an attentive listener in that afternoon. She asked me to pray for her and with her.
Yes, during the time alone away from home, I was interrupted by an unexpected encounter. I am glad, very glad that I had a chance to share time and heart with one who needs a friend to talk to. I gave God for the opportunity to share His love with him.
After the vacation, Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went towards the Sea of Galilee in the region of the Decapolis. There he met a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd and restored him completely.
Jesus returned home and continued the ministry of love and healing. Mark tells this story to teach that like Jesus, we are to do the ministry anywhere, at home and away from home.
I returned home last Tuesday, September 1st. The first person I met when I returned was Anne, Administrative Assistant. Taking this opportunity, I want to express my deep thanks to her for all the works she did during my leave. She is a great blessing to Fairfield Grace family and friends. I look forward to serving God and people of God with her.
Back to ranch, the first person she mentioned at the first meeting with me was a man who dropped by to see me the day before. I called him right away and was able to meet with him in my office around 11:30 am in the morning and find out that he got out of jail about three weeks ago and tried to start a new life and got a job offer as a painter and needed a work boot and a painter’s pant and a lock for his bike immediately to work the following morning.
I called the council of churches in the Greater Bridgeport to get him some help. He got a check to buy those items he needed at Walmart in Stratford. Hallelujah!
But the story is not over. Around 5 pm, he called me more than half-dozen times back to back when I was on my way home. He, tired and hungry, called out of frustration and upsetting because he was not able to find Walmart in Stratford. I noticed that he needed somebody next to him.
I made a u-turn to meet him at Walmart and stayed with him while getting all things he needed for the next day and gave him and his bike a ride to Bridgeport, a corner of the streets where he has spent overnight last three weeks. I felt bad and sad that I was not able to do more for him but gave thanks to God for the opportunity to spend time with him and prayed for His protection over him and his life.
Anywhere, anytime, anyone. We are called to do the ministry of love and healing at anywhere, at anytime and to anyone. Love your neighbors as yourself. Jesus commands us. James encourages us.
Are we open to anyone, particularly those who are poor and different from us and ready to share the love of God with them? Brokenness is all over the world. Migrants from Syria in Europe. Homeless in NYC and Bridgeport. Ex-prisoners, men and women, and their families. Countless prisoners. Children and youth in crisis of identity and in need of love and support. The list goes on. Our neighbors to love and care are at home, in our work place and in our neighborhood, as well. We do love our neighbors, young and old, new faces and familiar faces, similar colors and different colors. We do love particularly our neighbors who are in poverty and in pain.
I believe we are called to be God’s instrument of love and healing in this world. So we do good anywhere, anytime and to anyone. So we sing with confidence and joy, “I gonna love so God can use me anywhere Lord anytime. I gonna sing so God can use me anywhere Lord anytime. I gonna serve so God can use me anywhere Lord anytime.”
Welcome all of you to the Communion this morning. It is the invitation by Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.
It is the table where we receive power and strength for the ministry of love and healing. It is the time we are assured we are not alone and God is with us for the “anywhere, anytime and anyone” ministry. Amen.