Ferguson and the Rural Church: Starting Point (Part 1 of 3)

“I hope he doesn’t have an accent like the guy in the Chinese restaurant. I don’t understand his accent at all,” a lady commented in a noticeably southern accent before I got up to talk. Needless to say, the blissful ignorance of racism is an unspoken struggle in most rural churches. However, recently, avoiding conversations about race and racism has become rather difficult. Every news channel seems to be constantly mentioning some kind conflict based on the racial or ethnic differences.

In this current situation, how can pastors, in rural areas, begin a constructive discussion of racism? More specifically, how can we, the rural church, discuss the event of Ferguson, Missouri, without choosing sides?

Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty

Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty

In rural churches, conversations can begin by first acknowledging one truth: Jesus Christ has died for all of us, regardless of what they did or who they are. As a result of His death and resurrection, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. A Christian family that Jesus took priority over his own earthly mother and brothers.

Why can’t we first see and realize that everyone is our brother or our sister, regardless of color or social economic status? By being followers of Christ, we must see one another as a brother or as a sister, who are valued more than our earthly brother or sister.

God created us all, and God blessed us all. If God evaluated humankind as good, then why can’t we see each other as good? Why are we so quick to speak hate and evil to others who have different racial or ethnic backgrounds?

If we are able to see others, who are racially or ethnically different, as our brothers and sisters who are clothed in Christ, what can we then do to show that they are our brothers and sisters?

Serve

God created us to serve. In Genesis 2:15, God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till [‘ābad] it and keep [šāmar] it.

Ellen F. Davis notes that in Genesis 2:15, the words used to describe the work of humans in the garden are not words derived from the fields of horticulture and agriculture; in fact only rarely are they used to describe the cultivating of land. Instead, they are words that are primarily related to human activity in relationship with God: to serve or work on behalf of or worship (e.g., Exod 9:1, 13). Thus, to serve the land would imply “that we are to see ourselves in a relation of subordination to the land take clear precedence over our own immediate preference.”[1] In addition, the verb šāmar [keep, observe] has a primary reference to keeping the Torah (e.g., Exod. 13:10; 20:6). It’s used in Genesis 2:15 to mean, “to keep the land”, or protect the land, as well as later being used to mean, “to keep the commandments”. Keeping the commandments namely promotes the well being of others and to restrain violence and the misuse of others.[2]

Expanding on Dr. Ellen Davis’ point, when we were created, we can point out that we are to serve not just the land, but also the creatures created by God, including all human beings.

By serving, the Earth comes to order. By serving, the Earth finds peace.

Therefore, oppression is evil because we are misusing our brothers and sisters whom God has created. Also, equally important, oppression is unnatural because humanity is created to serve, not to rule.

Are we able to serve one another as a brother or a sister clothed in Christ? What is holding us back from seeing each other as children of God? Are we able to see one another as God’s creation first before we judge one another by height, weight, race, or clothes?

Christian Gooden—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Polaris

Christian Gooden—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Polaris

A constructive and honest discussion of racism has to start with the belief that God created humankind and that God saw it as good. A genuine conversation can begin when we grasp the truth that Jesus Christ suffered and died for all humanity – regardless of color, or their social economic status. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we all become brothers and sisters in Christ, not someone who is labeled by clothes, height, weight, or race.

By accepting that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we are then able to serve all, regardless of what they have done or are doing. Perhaps then, by serving, rural church can start discussing, seeing, and realizing the unnoticeable evil of racism. Perhaps then, by serving, the rural church can see the same humanness that we all share, instead of race or social economic status.

-James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow

 


[1]Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament commenting on Ellen F. Davis insight found in Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament

[2] Ibid.

Loneliness

Discussing rural ministries with others can easily lead one to romanticize about the ministry. While talking about ministry, one can largely overlook the tremendous time, energy, effort, struggle, and sacrifice needed to do ministry. One of the struggles that we, as pastors and particularly rural pastors, tend to overlook is loneliness.

This loneliness is not caused by lack of social interactions, but this loneliness is finding oneself without a confidant and/or an advocate. Sometimes, this is an area in our lives that even our own family members cannot fill. We feel lonely because we can’t seem to find people who can honestly listen to our struggles and our vulnerability. Yet, we find ourselves in situations where we continually give. For example, we find ourselves listening and caring for parishioners who are struggling to get their life on track. Or, we find ourselves being present with those who have lost their loved ones.

Some days we feel like we are giving everything to others, but we do not get back much in return. Worse yet, we feel like we are running on empty. We do not have much energy to give because we have been constantly giving and offering ourselves to others. In sum, we seem to give a lot more than what we are able to give.

Photo Cred: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-LT6xb4ZkcOs/UoUNBrweMVI/AAAAAAAABAQ/zFbKCuD4ppA/s320/janetavoid.jpg

Photo Cred: janetavoid.jpg

As a result, we wish to have something that can fill us back up with energy and love. Because we give so much without having much, we often wish that we possessed more. For instance, we wish to have more wealth so that we can give more financially. Or, sometimes, we wish to find a confidant or a mentor so that we can care more for others.

However, we need to realize that we are able to offer ourselves to others because we have little. We are able to care and love our parishioners more because we do not have much. Because when we have less, we are able to give more freely to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The idea that we can give more when we are in position of great wealth of money or wealth of relationships is a dangerous capitalistic thought that needs a careful re-examination.

More importantly, even though we feel empty, we can give and offer more in our relationships with others because a loving God sustains us. Through God’s love, we give and offer our significant time and effort into caring and loving for others, even though they may not replicate that same effort and care back to us. Somehow, when we feel like we are giving from our emptiness, God transforms that empty gift to make that gift worth more than what we could have imagined it to be.

Whenever we find ourselves in this loneliness, let us remember that we are able to give and offer more that what we have because we are grounded on hope, a hope was made possible through Christ. Because of his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ gives us the hope to continue on in our ministry even though it seems like we are giving everything while we are receive little in return.

When we are facing this loneliness, let us remember that old traditional hymn:
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.[1]

When we are facing this loneliness, let us take it to the Lord in prayer. Prayer where we confess our sins, our weaknesses, and our shortcomings. Prayer where we admit that we need Christ to sustain our lives.

I cannot guarantee that this feeling of loneliness will ever go away in our ministry. This feeling will haunt us from time to time. However, there is one thing we can do: we can praise God for our lack of possession because it allows us to care for others more. We can praise God for having little because it allows us to rely on that hope, which Christ has provided to us.

May God strengthen you throughout your ministry.

-James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow


 

[1] “What a Friend We have in Jesus” written by Joseph M. Scriven, 1855.

Faith without coffee shops

On quiet afternoons over the past summer, I found myself in coffee shops doing work. I love the atmosphere. I love the smell. I love coffee. Coffee shops are inspirational places to do work. Glancing around my immediate surroundings, I noticed two middle aged women sitting across my seat. They had their own bibles open and were intensely discussing a particular passage. Their conversation sparked fond memories of college when I would often go to coffee shops and met with my peers to explore how we can live more faithfully in this world. The conversations were sometimes encouraging, inspiring, or even heated. In all, I liked these coffee shops because they created friendly environments or open environments for us to talk about our struggles and our faith.

Photo Credit: http://kdvs.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/o-COFFEE-TEA-TASTE-facebook.jpg

Photo Credit: COFFEE-TEA-TASTE-facebook.jpg

I know for a fact that I will miss these coffee shops when I start my ministry in rural areas. And I started to wonder, where would I meet with people in rural areas? Where can I find a place that provides a friendly and/or open environment? However, as I thought about this more, this turned out to be a foolish question.

It is not that rural areas are lacking in meeting places. There are plenty of popular local diners in the area that people meet, eat, talk, and fellowship. But, beyond that there are more meaningful places that pastors could meet people to have deeper and rich conversation about our faith in God. In other words, pastors could meet their parishioners in a more effective and more relevant place, a place where we can explore more about faith. That relevant place is the mission field.

Rural areas may not have the most convenient places, which offer open and inviting spaces, but it does have places such as food pantry, community garden, retirement home, or other volunteer-based agencies. For example, meeting people in a food pantry to explore more about our faith may lead to more fruitful and enriching conversations. Serving others while we try to address our own issues and thoughts can enable us to be more introspective. It can actually force us to ask better questions concerning the things that we are struggling with. For instance, a person struggling with the concept of a loving God can meet with Christian brothers and sisters at a local food pantry to see how God’s love is being shown to those who are hungry: the volunteers and staff are empowered by God’s love to serve the needy. These mission places expose us to the reality of where we are, instead of sitting comfortably in a coffee shop trying to convince ourselves that God loves us.

Meeting with others to talk about God in coffee shops is a luxury. But, when our community does not have such convenient places, we, the rural church, can do something more fruitful: meeting at the mission field. By doing this, we are reacting fittingly around our surroundings, not just seeking out something that we want or desire. It also seems more meaningful to be serving our neighbors while wrestling with our own faith.

-James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow

 

All You Who Are Weary (including the young)

This blog post is a continuation of the previous post discussing of the popular question, “why aren’t we, the rural church, able to attract younger generations?” This question again is the wrong question to ask because it exposes two assumptions that can cause a ministry not to be fruitful: 1) the “young people” we envision in our minds tend to be a part of the perfect, societally accepted, typical young family, and 2) we assume that once the younger generations begin to join and become a part of our church community, we can shift our church work responsibilities onto them, passing the mantle, so to speak.

In the rural church, these seemingly “perfect” young families are, in actuality, unrealistic families. These perfect young families would work from 9 to 5. They would maintain a perfect relationship with one another. They would have perfectly mannered children. Yet, because we focus on searching for and seeking out these unrealistic families, we simply forget the young people who already exist in our congregation and our community. We tend to over look young families who are struggling with managing night shift work schedules and childcare[1], young families who have gone through a messy divorce[2], and young families who are not equipped to show proper love and affection to their children.

The church has lost touch with the reality of its community and the world. Meaning, the church blindly expects to attract these perfect young families. As a result, we have lost our ability to meet the needs of the young people and families who are actually around us. Again, after reframing the question, we can ask ourselves a better question, “how can we, as the church, serve these young families and young people in our community? Are we equipping our young adults so that they can navigate in this world more faithfully?

Once we start thinking about how we, the rural church, can serve young people, we tend to get discouraged because we think we don’t have enough resources to please the young families and young people in our communities. Rural churches typically are not able to provide things that we think young families seek out, such as reliable childcare, an active youth ministry, or exciting praise music. Or, in some cases, rural churches may not be interested in exchanging their traditions for a “contemporary” service. In sum, the rural church may not be able to or may not wish to cater to the generation-specific qualities that we think define young people.

However, one congregational study points out that young families and young people are not seeking a certain type of worship, or a certain type of program. Instead, they are looking for worship experience that is authentic.[3] This gives us, the rural churches, hope. It answers to our question: “how can we serve young families and young people?” We can start serving by providing them with worship experience that is authentic. They desire music that feeds the soul, regardless if it is contemporary or traditional. They desire preaching that teaches and feeds the deep void in our souls. It is not about chasing the latest trends, but having authentic worship.

Image found in http://westernavenuechurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/bkpam225425_lightstock_65544_medium_user_4936572x.jpg

Photo Cred:Image found in http://westernavenuechurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/bkpam225425_lightstock_65544_medium_user_4936572x.jpg

Young people in this time and age are burdened. They have to work to take care of not only their kids, but also their parents. They also have tremendous amount of debt to pay off (e.g. debt from their own higher education, their children’s education, or medical care for their parents). They are sandwiched. They are stretched in every possible direction. They do not desire to be in a position to ‘carry the mantle of the church’ or ‘be the workhorse of the church’. Only by being aware of the realities around its community can the church change its approach when it comes to young families and young people.

If churches can step back and truly understand their relationship to the community, they will be able to reach and serve the “young generations” that they seek to include. The churches’ responsibility is to react fittingly to its surrounding. For instance, as mentioned before, the churches can serve the young people and young families by preparing authentic worship services that properly feed their hunger, as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. This is the first step that we can take to serve the young people and to witness to the younger generations. There are more creative ways that the rural churches can minister for the young people. But, we have to remember: these young families and people are not our “ideal” young families or young people, and we have to remember to serve them, not them serving us.

Let’s create a serving ministry, an equipping ministry, a ministry where we can say to the young people in our church what Jesus said to his followers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow


[1] As the rural places lose employers, most people living in the rural areas have no choice but to commute to nearby cities to work second or third shifts.

[2] It has been recorded that the South struggles with having a higher divorce rate. You can find the article: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/marriage/story/2011-08-25/Marriage-divorce-rates-higher-in-the-South-lower-in-Northeast/50126268/1

[3] This research can be found in the article: http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/02/worship-style-attracts-millennials/

Technical Difficulties Part 1

I am sorry to bother you with all these emails. I ran into serious issues when I lost the application that handled the email list serve for this blog. I have found another application (hopefully more reliable). Because I lost the email list, I have added everyone back to the new application. I hope you don’t mind.

techdiff

Image from: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/AcKgZo4s0kY/hqdefault.jpg

I promise to put up more contents as soon as possible, and I encourage you to email me if you have something to share!
I apologize for any inconveniences!

Sincerely,
James Kim

Invisible Ministry

Many older congregations across rural North Carolina ask themselves the same question: how can we bring younger generations in to our church?

The question itself is the wrong question to ask. Before even talking about “bringing young people”, the church must ask itself how it is witnessing God. And the church typically responds that it is witnessing God through serving the community through various outreach events.

But, these outreach events, designed to reach out to the community, tend to become “self-service outreach events.” The outreach events actually become “insular” – catering to the people who are like us. Ultimately, we suffer from the limits of our own expectations.

While we are limited to our own expectations, I think we can develop outreach ideas by observing and understanding what is happening in our community. We have to follow Karl Barth’s slogan: Christians should always have the bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other. Specifically in these times in North Carolina, the church can do something about the rising number of hungry children and the limitation of the public education.

Today, North Carolina is in a heated debate concerning teacher’s salary. Yet, just raising the salary of the teachers will not alone improve children’s performance in the classroom. Teachers need more than just a salary increase. In North Carolina alone, roughly 28 percent of children struggle with hunger.[1] Hunger easily creates a toxic learning environment. Teachers need help filling the needs of the impoverished kids who are struggling with just surviving life.[2]

One of the ways that rural churches can witness God in this situation is by sponsoring a backpack ministry for a local school. A backpack ministry provides a needy child with a backpack filled with food each Friday that will help them cover one weekend. Another way for the rural church to witness is by sponsoring a school. The church can assist a school in buying the school supplies that the school needs in order to have a somewhat functioning classroom. The church also can provide volunteers to assist teachers and their students, in order that children may have a more effective learning environment.

photo

I refer to these ministries as invisible ministries. By invisible ministries, I mean that these are thankless ministries. All the work is done behind the scenes. However, to me, these invisible ministries speak volumes. In fact, these ministries are prophetic in North Carolina. Instead of just expressing our opinion on Facebook or Twitter, we are putting our convictions into action. We are reaching out to the hungry. We are letting the children to taste and see the reality of the coming Kingdom of God.

The focal point is not to gain a lot of members through these local ministries. No, the important thing is that the church serves the community, and serves in a way that glorifies God. By serving rightly, the church becomes the church that the world needs, not what it wants. In other words, by serving in these invisible ministries, we, the servers, are learning what it means to serve God. Through this service, we ourselves unknowingly come to love Jesus more. By loving more, our eyes and our hearts open up so that the Spirit can move us to bring the people in need to the church.

When we serve, it is not just about achieving something in the name of the Lord, but it is about being closer to God. We are God’s servants. By serving, we are witnessing to God. By witnessing to God, we are unleashing the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that captured the attention of Israelites from the nations around Jerusalem (Acts 2).

We can’t just attract people to our churches on our own strength. Well, we can, but I do not believe that is not how we should grow. Instead, we can witness God through these invisible ministries. Through these invisible ministries, we are then able to unleash the Holy Spirit. And by unleashing the Spirit, we, the servers and the receivers, taste and see the goodness of Jesus Christ. Through tasting the sweetness and the goodness of Jesus Christ, we are then captivated to accept His invitation to the table to “come and see.”

We can’t just sit and ponder why the “younger generations” are not coming to our churches. We just don’t have time for that. Instead, we have to witness Jesus Christ to others by serving the broken world around us. And by witnessing and serving in invisible ways, we are unleashing the Holy Spirit to those who we serve. In other words, by serving rightly, we are letting God move powerfully in their lives.

-James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow


[1] Statistic from http://nc.nokidhungry.org/hunger-north-carolina

[2] Moreover, by reaching out to children in rural schools, churches can reach the “younger generations” that they seem to lack.

 

A Glimpse

Chemotherapy.

For those who have never experienced or watch a loved one go through cancer treatment, it’s a difficult concept to grasp.

Cancer will kill you. And yet, the most pervasive treatment for cancer, chemotherapy, can also kill you.[1] It works by targeting and killing cancerous cells in the body, but at the same time, the treatment also “accidentally” attacks healthy parts of the body. It is a treatment that is toxic to the body and it comes with a deluge of painful side effects.

Fatigue. Constant aches. Grogginess. Sleepless nights.  Nightmares. Simultaneously feeling hungry and nauseatingly sick of food.

These side effects last for a week or more, as the body tries to recover from the onslaught of drugs it has taken in.

The concept of chemotherapy is strange one: destroy parts of your body to a point so that it can recover itself cancer-free. This treatment concept seems counterintuitive, yet I believe it can help us understand the workings of our own resurrection in Christ.

Many of us question the concept of resurrection. Why do we have to die in order to have a new body? Why is death involved?

We cannot completely answer the mystery, but we get a glimpse of the mystery of the resurrection by looking at how modern medicine relies on our bodies: nearly killing a person so that the person can recover cancer-free. Through the near-death experience, we hope to be healthier and better.

The-Resurrection

In the process of being resurrected in Christ, we must kill or reject of ourselves, parts that are obviously bad, as well as parts that seem good. The process may feel painful or fruitless. It may feel much worse to go through the process of rejecting our sinful ways rather than going on living in ignorance of our diseased and dying bodies.

But do not forget that cancer and sin alike, no matter how much we try to avoid the pain and consequences, will slowly shut down our bodies and souls. Only when we are willing to let go of it all, when we are ready to place our trust in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, can we be rebuilt and restored into good health. And that, is the beautiful part; in Christ, we are strong enough to grow and become more like our resurrected selves.

Being resurrected through death is a counterintuitive concept, but at the same time it makes sense. We see a glimpse of this mystery through painful chemotherapy treatments. The medicine places its hope in this concept of nearly killing a person so that the person could get better and healthier.

However,  sometimes, people lose their battle from the difficult chemotherapy treatments, and  people struggle to recover completely from the side effects. While our “pseudo” method of resurrection does not guarantee full recovery, we believe that our resurrection in Christ will certainly lead us to a new perfect body. We believe that we will truly be delivered from sin in our resurrected bodies, which frees us from pain and suffering that is present in this broken world.

- James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow

Church is the mission

408px-The_Ascension)_by_Benjamin_West,_PRA

The Ascension by Benjamin West, 1801

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

These were the last words that Jesus spoke to his disciples when he ascended into Heaven. And in this statement, we, as the church, are tasked with being the witnesses of Jesus Christ as the Son of God through the Holy Spirit.

The church exists because Jesus Christ commanded it, and the church exists because God has a mission, which is revealed through Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus Christ told us that we, with the Holy Spirit, will witness Him through all the ends of the earth. This mission from God can be found in a powerful narrative, where we learn that God rescued the lost and the broken world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The church and its mission are completely part of God. According to Richard Hays, the church is empowered by the Holy Spirit to reenact the loving obedience of Jesus Christ and serve as a sign of God’s redemptive purpose for the world.[1] The church is an extension of God’s mission – nothing less and nothing more.

If this is the case, then the mission of the church is not something that the church does in order to show the world, nor is the mission some sort of checklist in order to win an accolade or recognition. Instead, the mission is like the account of Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit arrests an audience’s attention and makes them receptive to hearing the Gospel. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian martyr, suggests, Christianity is not primarily about a person’s own concerns, interests, or mission. Rather, it is about being caught up, swooped up, in the way of Jesus Christ.

The church serves because God empowers us to serve. The church reaches out to the needy and the poor because God exposes us to feel the pain of the poor and the hungry. We do not serve others in order to somehow“win them” to Christ  through our own actions, but because God taught us to serve through His perfect Love. God is the primary actor who moves us so that we can become the church, which is the mission.

This concept of mission is somewhat different from what we may think of as missions. But, thinking of the church as the mission may be more fruitful for the rural church. Instead of focusing on what the church should do, the church can focus on witnessing Jesus Christ, which is the mission that we are already tasked to do. In what ways are we witnessing Jesus Christ to the world? In what ways are we led by the Spirit? Are we witnessing Christ?

We, as ministers, must leave some sort of room for the Holy Spirit to lead us to be the church. We, as ministers and leaders of the rural churches, have to be patient. We have to fervently wait so God can transform us and move us without us knowing how!

The number of different mission committees a church decides to form does not define the church doing missions. Instead, the church is the mission. The mission that invites everyone to experience God’s saving love, which empowers us to participate and witness the Truth and Everlasting Love.

- James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow

 


[1] Richard Hays. The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

As a chapter ends, a new one begins

Graduating Rural Fellows! Missing Nate and Adam.

Graduating Rural Fellows with Director Brad Thie! Missing Nate and Adam.

Last week, we celebrated the rural fellow graduates. We celebrated the achievements of finishing their degrees. But more importantly, we celebrated their calling, a calling to serve in rural places using their gifts.

For many, entering into ministry is not attractive. Entering into the “dwindling” rural ministry is even more unattractive.

Yet, somehow, we are drawn to rural areas. No matter how we articulate our calling, we are convicted that we should serve those rural people whom the church tends to neglect because of their perceived arrogance, indifference, and lack of “worldly” experience.

While others flee the sinking ship, we take a deep breath and stay on board hoping that we can stabilize the ship. While many people escape the burning building, we take courage and go in to put out the fire. Will we succeed—who knows? Is it our place to determine success? How can we say we have succeeded in God’s ministry if the ministry belongs to God? All we can do is to proclaim that we are humbly led to serve the rural churches with our best of our abilities.

We hold onto our faith like Moses. Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land for 40 years but he himself did not reach the Promise Land. Even the great prophet could not set his feet on the Promise Land, but still, he did not blame God. Moses understood that he was a servant of God doing God’s ministry. Being the servant of God was more important to him than achieving something for God’s ministry. Likewise, we celebrate with the graduates that calling, the calling to be the servant of God.

A new chapter begins not only for lives of the graduated fellows, but also for the Thriving Rural Community. A new chapter begins for the current rural fellows as well. We are forming our calling so that it is fitting to the theme of this book that is in the making, a book that tells a narrative of serving the rural ministry, a ministry that we all hold precious.

The Rural Fellows graduating this year ends one chapter of that book. May God bless their humble hearts. May God give them the strength to do His work in the rural areas. Lift high the cross! So that the love of Christ proclaim! May God bless you and keep you. May he make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May he lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.

-James Kim
M.Div. 2015, Rural Fellow

Happy belated Easter!

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?”
“Where, O death, is your sting?”[1]

Happy belated Easter! We worship our Lord because He has risen from the dead and He has won the victory over death. But what does it mean that Jesus has overcome death? And what does it mean that death lost its sting?

Here, William F. May[2] helps us to articulate this powerful event. May suggests that we are terrified by death because death threatens to separate humankind in three ways: separate from its flesh, the community, and relationship with God. When death threatens to separate us from our flesh, it also threatens us with comprehensive loss of possession and control of our universe. Death takes us apart from what we have: our agency. Death also threatens to tear us apart from our community. Death takes away our husbands, wives, fathers, sons, and tears apart loved ones from one another for the rest of their lives. Lastly, death threatens us with separation from God. We are separated from our God, the comforter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image from: http://www.gohchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/easter-cross.jpg

However, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead shows us that death can still menace, but it can no longer make good on its threats. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we realize that that our flesh will somehow still exists with us. Jesus did not appear to his disciples with a ghoulishly divested of a body. Instead, he appeared in his complete and perfect form in a body that still resembled something of a flesh. Moreover, we will not be torn apart from our community. Instead, Jesus has shown us that there will be an eternal community filled with righteousness, joy, and peace. Lastly, Jesus has revealed to us through his death and resurrection that neither life, nor death, nor the failure of Christians, will be able to separate humanity from the love of God. Death will not separate us from God.

Thinking about death in these three ways helps us to understand just a part of what it really means for Jesus to take the victory and sting away from death. And, let us not forget to praise and worship Jesus as our Lord, as our Savior, and as our Messiah because he is the one that revealed to us that we should not be afraid of death.

-James Kim
M. Div. 2015, Rural Fellow

 


[1] 1 Corinthians 15:54-56.

[2] William F. May, “The Sacral Power of Death in Contemporary Experience.”