Text: Psalm 29: 3; Romans 8: 14; John 3:7
My father liked to know a person’s first, middle, and last name; then he’d take his pen and paper and write the initials in flowing letters of what was called Spenserian script, which in my father’s time was considered the American standard for writing. (Wikipedia) Now we let a keyboard do the writing for us; something which my father never fully accepted; he still wanted to scroll out the initials of a person’s full name.
On the calendar of the church, this is the Festival of the Trinity, when we hear God say, “‘Trinity’ is My Name” which when fully spelled out is three words in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in today’s English: Creator, Savior, Sustainer; three words within the name for God Who is known as “Trinity.”
Three words that have always been visible in the Bible, but it has taken centuries to see they are there, providing the initials for God’s name, which is “Trinity.”
The first initial is “F” for “Father” or “C” for “Creator” which is scrolled across the heavens and the earth to be read:
in the vast expanse that almost takes our breath away when we open a website to view the images sent back from the Hubble telescope, and in the down-to-earth wonder of a rose or iris whose beauty is easily captured with a digital camera, but challenges the most accomplished artist who labors to reproduce the details and capture the colors.
Years ago a person thought he’d met the challenge with a wall design of flowers so perfectly painted a person would try to pick them. Then someone brought in a bouquet from the garden, opened the window, and watched as some bees buzzed past the wall and landed on the flowers in the vase. They could tell the difference between the Creator and the creature’s work of art.
Write the first initial for God Whose name is “Trinity,” with the “F” for Father or the “C” of Creator, and as you do, hear the echo of the Psalmist ‘s song:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders…
which Mathbie Davenport Babcock heard as he took walks along the Niagara cliff that overlooks the panoramic vista of upstate New York and Lake Ontario. He turned that sight into a poem we now sing:
This is my Father's world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres...
This is my Father's world,
He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
“Trinity” is my name announces God, written out as three words with the initial of the first word being “F” for Father or “C” for Creator, read in all that God has made!
“Trinity” is my name announces God with the second initial being “S” for the word “Son” or “Savior,” written on Good Friday’s cross, raised to pull all people to the One Who is has been crucified for the sins of the world, the ultimate offering, once and for all.
Today’s Gospel has us hearing Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Do not be astonished that I say to you, You must be born from above.’” The "you" in the Greek is plural, addressed not just to Nicodemus, but to anyone and everyone, to US, to whom Jesus is saying, ‘You must be born from above.’…“You” must let God re-birth you into the new life of Jesus, offered up in death, to give you His life, as a gift of love.
Eugene Peterson, in The Message translates today’s Gospel into these contemporary words, "God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." (Quoted from Day1, for May 31, 2015 sermon by the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Weems, Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Miami, FL)
Born” into the new life that has us singing words that seemed to be dictated by an inner voice to the Scottish minister, George Matheson:
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
“Trinity” is my name announces God, with the second initial being “S” for the word “Son” or “Savior,” posted on Good Friday’s cross.
“Trinity” is my name announces God with the third initial being the “S” for the word “Spirit,” signed in the deep breath of God first felt in the open lines of Genesis, like a sweeping mark that tails off into a swirling, twisting elegant stroke at the end of a signature, that spreads across the pages in the Bible and reaches beyond until it entwines itself into every cell within us, giving us the voice to confess: For all who are led by the Spirit of God
are children of God.
In high school I worked on weekends and during the summer in a maternity ward and sometimes in the nursery where every newborn wore a beaded bracelet spelling out the name by which he or she would be known and called; names that my father would have enjoyed taking the first letters and scrolling the initials.
Now when I mention my father’s practice and picture his intense effort to give each initial the flow of Spenserian script, I think of our Parent-God’s unswerving desire to write the initials for God’s name that is “Trinity,” not on paper, but on each of us.
And so, in our Baptism and at Confirmation and the time of death God’s initials are marked on our foreheads,
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and with that sign the God Whose name is “Trinity” claims us with the indelible seal that marks us as “children of God.”
Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift! Amen!
Text: Ezekiel 37: 9-10; Acts 2: 3-4; John 15:26
This weekend marks an anniversary that may slip by; so let’s not let that happen. Let’s remember, beginning with recalling: This town that was being settled in the mid-nineteenth century, had this church and two schools that were impacted when Fort Sumner was attacked by Southern forces and the war between the Blue and the Gray, Union and Confederate, began on April 12, 1861.
Now, 150 years later we remember that May 23-24, 1865, was the Grand Review of the Union troops that marched down Pennsylvania Ave, with the Capitol in Washington DC in the background.
The fires in Southern cities were still smoldering from well-aimed shells that blew up storehouses of ammunitions; and there was the fresh tragedy 12 days after the assassination of President Lincoln when on April 27th the boilers exploded on steamboat SS Sultana plying its way up the Mississippi, carrying freed POWs, a crew, and women and children. The boat built to carry 376 had as many as 2,600 because the captain was paid per head count. 1,700 died from drowning or later from their injuries, making it the worst disaster in US naval history.
150 years ago this weekend, as the Union troops marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, lines from Julia Ward Howe’s hymn written one month after the Civil War began were still being sung:
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
Memories of the campfire gave shape to those charred ruins of cities and victims lying dead on battlefields or hospitals or lost in the sinking of the Sultana, which, as Julia Ward Howe wrote, were but the sparks to ignite
the end-time fires of Hell, to which God would condemn the wicked…for His day is marching on.
The flames of our nation’s Civil War had, by Julia’s hymn, lighted the way for the Union troops in blue to be on a holy cause to abolish slavery, and indict those who wore the gray of the Confederacy.
At the same time the thought of a Day of God’s Judgment had awakened a religious revival in both armies;
the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps were like lanterns giving the light to read the Bible verses and sing the hymns and pray the prayers in the small books given to each soldier, who, in the evening dews and damps …built an altar to give themselves to God as sinners in need of salvation.
Troops had felt the heat of a fire of God’s righteous sentence; burning in the campfires’ indicting flames;
the flames carried in the hymn sung by Union troops marching in review in Washington, DC, 150 years ago the weekend, a significant anniversary on our nation’s calendar.
But note what day this is on the calendar of the church? It’s Pentecost, the day when we read:
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability.
It had been anticipated ever since the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel gave hope to the Hebrews living in exile when he told them what God intended to do:
Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
The African-American author and songwriter, James Weldon Johnson, along with his brother. J. Rosmond, turned Ezekiel’s words into a spiritual which the Jubilee Singers first sang in 1928 and we have been singing ever since: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dem_Bones)
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. Now hear the word of the Lord.
Yes, the word of the Lord that echoes through to us in the Gospel promise of Jesus read on this Pentecost Sunday: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”
Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ tomb was discovered to be empty, and in the weeks that followed, the Easter Jesus continually appeared and with each appearance, spoke His blessing of peace, and gave His charge,
“As the Father had sent me, so I send you.” which they could do, because He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” – the empowering, breathed in presence of Christ!
On this Day – fifty days after Jesus made His first back-from-the-dead appearance to those who had seen Him die and buried Him, …a tongue like fire, appeared among them… and rested on each of them.
Fire like the bush that was ablaze but not consumed, used by God to get Moses’ attention and give him a new assignment, now got their attention to be fired up with God’s calling to be God’s forgiven and a forgiving people, able to speak to one another in their own language, as the Spirit gave them ability.
The call now given to us, to be received by us.
The Spirit of God, like fire, meant to counter the consuming and indicting flames of war and of hate with the healing flames that warm our hearts and fire up our commitment to be Christ’s servant church that was ignited with His Spirit fifty days after Easter, in the upper room in Jerusalem.
One month each summer a wealthy Massachusetts family vacationed along the coast of Maine and took their maid with them. Her beach ritual was to put on an old-fashioned bathing suit, a little white hat, and carry a suitcase filled with paraphernalia. She would put a toe in the water, then retreat to her chair under her large umbrella and spend the remainder of the vacation reading a book. (Adapted from Randy L. Hyde, Time to Deliver)
Pentecost is a call to get up and come out from our isolated umbrella –life and let ourselves be immersed in God’s Spirit; it’s on today’s calendar to remind us, in a world burning with indicting flames, we are meant to receive God’s ongoing gift of healing flames and share it; that’s what Jesus’ church is meant to be and do. Amen.
Text: John 17: 9, 10
“Listen, what do you hear?” It is what Jesus’ closest friends heard as He prayed in the olive grove before His arrest and trial and death by crucifixion. It is the prayer they committed to memory and then to parchment,
so that, centuries later, we, too, can hear Jesus praying,
“I am asking on their behalf;
I am not asking on behalf of the world,
but on behalf of those whom you gave me…”
Listen and think of what we are hearing. Jesus is praying for US when prayer doesn’t make it on our to-do list,
when it’s the farthest thought from our mind or our intention; when we are too busy to take time to pray.
Or, we’ve tried it and nothing happened; a crisis wasn’t averted, a personal problem wasn’t solved, a loved one’s
premature death wasn’t postponed; we’ve tried and our prayers seem to evaporate into emptiness and leave us feeling abandoned by the God to Whom we are talking.
Maybe it’s our fault; we don’t have the right combination of words; prayer is a foreign language we’ve never learned to speak.
Listen to today’s Gospel and hear JESUS “asking on OUR “behalf.” Jesus is asking what we do not have the words or the confidence or gumption or daring to direct to God.
He’s praying on behalf of us, saying of us,
“those whom you gave me, because they are yours.”
It’s that amazing claim which gave Zacharias Ursinus the confidence to start off the teaching tool called the Heidelberg Catechism with:
“What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
“That I belong – body and soul, in life and in death –not to myself but to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Listen and hear Jesus praying for every individual who confesses, “I belong – not to myself but to Jesus Christ.”
And the “I” expands to “all” as Jesus prays,
“All mine are yours, and yours are mine;
and I have been glorified in them.”
Listen, and note when it is that we are hearing Jesus’ prayer in the olive grove before His arrest and trial and death by crucifixion. It is being read after that Thursday night, after Good Friday’s cross, after Easter Sunday’s empty tomb, after the back-from-the dead Jesus talked and walked and ate with His closest friends.
It is the Easter Gospel for this Seventh Sunday that follows Thursday with its name: The Ascension of Our Lord,
40 days after Easter Sunday. It is the prayer we are hearing echoing through the sight His closest friends saw as they watched Him being lifted up into the heavens. As He disappeared from their sight, two men said He would come again; they would see Him coming down just as they had seen Him go up.
Some have taken that to mean Jesus was saying, “Goodbye, I’m up and away. I’m leaving you and I won’t be
back until that Big Bang Day when I will make a dramatic appearance and come to stay.” Jesus – ascended to be absent until further notice!
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth: that Jesus ascended – not to be absent but to be over all things in heaven and on earth; to put everything under His feet, to rule from above, and be Lord of all who call Him “Savior.”
The Ascended Jesus, praying for all from the dimension of cosmic space and time and with the power of divine authority, which gave the early church the reason to compose a hymn that turned the crucified Christ into the risen and exalted Christ, of Whom they sang: (Philippians 2: 9-11)
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Two of our members, Judy Fryer and Bruce Fryer, happened to be visiting our partner church in Germany on our behalf at this time last year and witnessed an Ascension Day baptism for adults who were confessing “I belong to Jesus Christ.”
The Ascension Day custom is to conduct the service in the local river. The day and the water were cold, but warmed with the joy of the newly baptized and the congregation who followed the service with a meal in the church. Together they witnessed to their response to the Cosmic Christ Who rules over all things and all people.
Ascension Day – meant to proclaim the risen Christ is now the ascended Christ – celebrated in a present-day song: "They nailed him to the cross by hands and feet, and they put him in the ground. Three days later everybody found out that you can't, no you can't...keep a good man down. No you can't, no you can't, no you can't keep a good man down." (“New Group” singers quoted by Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler, Day 1, 2008.)
Jesus, ascended to pull us to Himself in prayer, and being pulled to Him, turn to pray for one another.
That’s the experience of Jonathan Holston, an African American pastor, who traveled with his friend into the mountains in West Virginia – where our ASP teams have gone. There he met Mary, a white woman who had never had a Black man in her home which was filled with soot from the coal furnace that darkened the walls and gave a stench to the air. They talked together as Christians and as they were about to leave, his friend asked Mary if she wanted to pray.
Though quite elderly, she leapt to her feet and reached out to put her hand in the hand of her first-time Black visitor, wondering if he would touch her or pull away. Is the Christian faith real? Would he be one with her this day?
As he took her hand it was a new day for him and for her. He said, “We prayed for each other to receive God's abiding spirit. It was as if the Scripture came alive.”- (with the prayer of Jesus echoing into and through them). (The Reverend Jonathan Holston (United Methodist), Day 1, 2004.)
Listen, listen to Jesus praying for us, and in praying for us, feel the pull, first to sing the hymn: “Jesus shall reign”and then to pray for one another. Amen.
Text: 1 John 5: 1-2; John 15: 12, 16-17
When the 2010 Fall TV season was announced, there was a new series advertised to be aired on ABC beginning September 28 and running through April 5th featuring a 1960’s typical American family: father and mother and two children – a son and a daughter, whose plane crashes in the Amazon. There they encounter one science-fiction episode after another that changes them into: “No Ordinary Family.”
The series never made into a second season even though a fan club of viewers is still circulating petitions,
but they can’t get enough signatures to bring it back.
Nor can we bring back that show’s image of a family: a set of parents with two children, one of each gender.
Today families are being defined in a different way, not by generation and gender but by relationships; which is really a return to a way the earliest Christians saw themselves to be “No Ordinary Family.”
Family defined as a relationship spelled out in a somewhat complex combination of words in the First Letter of John: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, (and therefore, God’s children)
who in the straight-forward Gospel words of Jesus, hear: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’
“As I have loved you” – A relationship of love coming from God through Christ that defines “family” not by generation and gender, but by being connected to God with a love made visible in Christ.
The story is told of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, "You must be very close to God." The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, smiles and says, "Yes, he's very fond of me." What's So Amazing about Grace?, Phillip Yancy, P.69)
God’s “fondness” that has us hearing Jesus say, You did not choose me but I chose you. A relationship of love coming from God-in-Christ, Who, from the beginning of creation, has longed to have all humans be God’s children, who, being chosen by God, are “No Ordinary Family.”
“Wonder Years” was another TV series that aired 22 years before the premiere of “No Ordinary Family” and went on for six seasons of 115 episodes. A pastor who watched as a child, reminisces about the scene of choosing a basketball team in Phys Ed class.
Brian Stoffregen recalls the teacher choosing two to pick the rest of their teams, leaving the poor players till last – “which did little to help their self-esteem.” The show’s main character, Kevin, complains to the teacher who makes him one of the captains.
Kevin’s friends, one of the worst players, looks at him in anticipation; will Kevin choose him early in the round, or be like all the other captains?
Kevin picks him and feels good about his choice; so, he picks another friend who isn’t a good player. Soon he hears, “Pick some good players. We want to win the game.” But Kevin keeps picking the losers. It makes him feel good and they feel good about being picked. Of course, as players they are losers, but they didn’t play for the top score, they played for the fun of knowing they have been chosen to play together. (Quoted from www.textweek.com for May 10, 2015, Brian Stoffregen, Faith Lutheran Church, 1000 D St., Marysville, CA 95901.)
The pastor, Brian Stoffregen, asks, “Who did Jesus choose?” The answer, “Crude , foul-mouthed, impatient, hot-headed fishermen; a tax collector known to be a swindler, a fanatical revolutionary.” As someone has said, “God elects the rejects.” (IBID.)
And that’s hope us as we hear Jesus say, You did not choose me but I chose you. and insert our name in the place of the word “you.” Do it now, and then say, “No Ordinary Family!” who then listen to Jesus finishing the sentence: And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name….in “his name” Whose name is LOVE,
God’s love coming through Christ, to us, to bear the fruits of that love that make us “No Ordinary Family!”
The “love-fruit” of listening, knowing that is why we have one mouth and two ears…to listen, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for (brothers and sisters in Christ) is listening to them.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 97.)
A person who experienced a personally devastating tragedy was visited by one church member after another;
each came with flowers or a devotional booklet, or food. Another church member who finally pushed herself to go, came with a confession; she’d hesitated to visit because she didn’t know what to say.
The person’s response was, “Please sit down and hold my hand. I just want to feel the silence of love expressed in your being with me.” The love-fruit of listening practiced by Christians who are “No Ordinary Family!”
And the “love fruit” of other-centered love replacing self-centered love, discovered by a woman who had attended a church for 20 years, and finally brought herself to joining the Alcoholic Anonymous group that met in the building. It was then that she said, “This is what I have been seeking; the other-centered love of people who have dared to step out of an ego-centered life and love me with their caring, and their hard words when I need to hear them.” (Adapted from Melissa Bane Sevier, Contemplative Viewfinder, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Aurora, Indiana)
The love-fruit of Christ’s love for us, give to others by Christians who are “No Ordinary Family!”
Some are saying that the “family” is changing from being defined by generation and gender to the relationship of love, from God, through Christ, to us to share with one another as God’s children who are “No Ordinary Family.”
Where is this family found? The answer echoes down to us through today’s Scripture heard on this Sunday in the ongoing season of Easter, sub-titled as “Festival of the Christian Home” and Mother’s Day.”
The artist, Margret Hofheinz-Doring, traces this family tree back through time in her work called “Endless Road,”
that pulls our eyes into a background that stretches beyond the horizon, back to the first humans chosen by God to be the beginning of “No Ordinary Family.”
Later the artist’s work was captioned with the words: "There aren’t any ordinary people in the world; everyone is
extraordinary because everyone has been created by God, and is someone to reverence." (Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, 20th century, from wordofgodeveryday.com)
Family, defined not as generation and gender, but a relationship of love coming from God through Christ to us to one another, the family tree which when traced back has us saying with the Irish peasant, “God is very fond of me.” and when looking up say, “And of everyone else, chosen by God to be God’s children; ‘No Ordinary Family!’”
Then, on this Festival of the Christian Home and Mother’s Day add, “That’s how we define family!” AMEN.
John 15: 1, 4-5
Vineyards and vines and wine are a thriving business!
Acres on Long Island that once grew potatoes now produce grapes; as does California’s Napa Valley, converted from fields yielding fruits and vegetables, to vineyards. Vineyards are even appearing in the Gobi Dessert!
When it comes to drinking the fruit of the vine, US is first, ahead of France and Italy, and consumption is gaining in China, Russia, and Australia, (Forbes, Business, Niall McCarthy, April 29, 2015) making wine a very exportable product with the profit on an annual harvest determined by a year’s weather; moisture produces sweeter, and therefore, better grapes, making for a “vintage year” or a “vintage wine” sold at a higher price.
Whether vintage or not, wine drinking holds a deadly truth: some people are allergic to its sulfites; some become addicted and consume too much wine; for some on mediations there can be dangerous side effects when taken with wine– damaging the liver and kidneys.
The same things could have been said in Jesus’ time and culture which He lifted to a new and different level as, when looking at the familiar fields and everyday drink, He said to His closest friends on the way to His death,
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.’
Jesus used a well-known sight to announce: God was growing a vineyard in which Jesus was the “true” vine and those committed to following Him were the “branches” united, connected, or in Jesus’ word: “abiding” in Him.
There is a story about a man raised in a remote village without modern conveniences. When he visited a large city, he was amazed by the lights that shone throughout the night; so, he bought light bulbs, sockets and switches. When he arrived home, he hung the light bulbs on his house and on all the trees in the neighborhood. Everyone stood watching and, as they become more and more curious, they asked, “What are you doing?” and he answered, “Just wait till dark and you’ll see.”
But, at dark, when he threw the switch, nothing happened. He didn’t realize he needed to be connected to a power source of electricity. (Sermons.com May 3, 2015)
C.S. Lewis said of Christians: "God has designed the human machine to run on Himself. He is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other."
In the imagery of today’s Gospel: God has designed us to be like a branch connected to the vine in a vineyard.
Look around and see how connected we humans are – connected to cell phones and I Pads, to a TV series, to Facebook or Twitter, to a sport or a sports team, to a particular label-displaying line of clothing or footwear, or a hobby; we are a very “connected” people, and yet, with all our connections are we “connected” to, “abiding in” God and one another?
In the imagery of the Easter Gospel words of Jesus: Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
The life of God, the vine-grower, flows into Christ, the true vine, and on into His followers, who bear the fruit produced through that union – vine-grower, vine, branches- yielding a vintage crop called “Vintage Christians.”
Vintage Christians who know it’s all about “abiding” and “pruning.”
In summer months the pergola in our backyard in Collegeville is covered with grape branches and vines, and with just the right moisture and temperatures, there is a vintage yield in early Fall. But for that to happen again, the branches must be cut back with a hard pruning; if not, next year’s growth will be mostly wooden vines and leaves, and very few grapes.
What might we need to hard “prune,” some interests, some pursuits, and schedules that are sapping away our strength and turning us into being like a vineyard filled deadwood and shriveled up leaves, and maybe some barren branches that can become a home for insects that will eat away at the vine?
All the more reason to know the need for pruning is because of what Jesus said: I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
When the Apostle Paul was talking and writing to Christians living in the urbanized, commercialized cities of the first-century Roman Empire where there was little room for vineyards, and wine was imported rather that produced, he held Christians to Jesus’ image for His followers: Branches on the vine, abiding in Him so His life might flow into and through them, nourishing and strengthening them to “bear much fruit.”
“Vintage Christians” yielding a vintage harvest of the “fruits of the Spirit” that is allergy-free and non-addictive– spiritual wine bearing the labels: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5: 22-23)
The grape vines that cover the pergola in our backyard were grown from slips of Concord grapes that are more than 200 years old and stand as a silent reminder that, as Christians, we are rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ, dating back 2,000 years and when remembering Jesus was a Jew and His heritage pushes the date by 5,000 years, and, when the vines are heavy with grapes, they hold the image of a vintage crop of spiritual fruits that are planted and nurtured and marketed in the community of Christ’s people, “Vintage Christians.”
A boy in North Korea was left homeless when his father died of starvation, his mother escaped to China to sell his sister into bride slavery knowing it would be better than staying in North Korea, and when caught visiting her, was imprisoned. He was left to beg for food but was swatted away.
He took the risk of escaping to China, only to find no one would help him except for a poor elderly woman who could only advise him to go to a church. “Look for the building with a cross on it.” The cross he knew was the red one on the gate to a hospital in North Korea. Seeing none, he stopped a man and asked, “Where can I find a cross?” “Look up,” he was told, and there it was, marking a church building.
Inside he met people who fed him even though they could be arrested, imprisoned, or killed. Eventually a Christian arranged for him to come to America where he later was graduated from high school, went to college, and attends a vineyard-like church where he has found followers of Christ who are abiding in Him, pruning away all distractions, and yielding the fruits of the Spirit; Vintage Christians and he has become one of them.
(Adapted from Christianity Today, “Testimony,” Joseph Kim, May, 2015, P. 79-80)
The same discovery we pray others will find here, among us, in this small part in Christ’s vineyard called “Trinity!”
Rev. Dr. Martha B. Kriebel is Pastor Emerita of Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ in Collegeville, PA