Dear to my heart

On Sunday, I was broken during church. If I had gone about the rest of Sunday having only attended the Quaker meeting I went to with my roommate (he was raised Quaker), I wouldn’t have been so wrecked. But neither would my soul have been so moved. That open worship setting at the Quaker meeting was interesting. 60 minutes of complete silence with 30 other people around me. It was so incredibly hard to pray for the entire hour or even think about something at all. I’d fidget, frustrated that the Quaker concept of worship (at least in this congregation) included nothing of Scripture or outward expressions of praise. That fidgeting  only affirmed for me my recent problem in finding it hard to pray for people back home, as I haven’t gotten any specific details on prayer requests and life updates in a while from many of them. Occasionally, I would think about those times in the past when a particularly difficult Sunday or Friday at church would bring me to my knees in prayer. I try to stir up my heart like those times, but I just can’t on my own. But the Spirit has His ways, and Sunday night He crashed down on me like a wave.

The sermon at Trinity Grace Church was on 1 Corinthians 12. The previous week’s sermon was powerfully challenging, exposing the depths of the heart of our individualistic culture and convicting my own heart of all the potential that a fervent, united community has for advancing the kingdom of God in the city.  This week’s sermon proceeded in much the same way, though it was a different speaker. It was well-rounded in presenting the Bible’s overall vision of community and God’s plan for His people (I love it when the pastor can weave through the tapestry of the Bible like that). I already felt my spirit tugged just by listening to the pastor preach. When I see that God has blessed a man in the area of preaching, it not only catches my attention, but it creates this strange joy-sadness in me. Joy that the gospel is being boldly proclaimed but sadness that such preaching was not found during my time at YKC. I think of pastors that struggle at the pulpit, or pastors that struggle with their confidence. I know it is only the Holy Spirit that moves, but I can’t help but ponder the correlation between speaking skills and how well a church attracts new people. It sure attracts me. So even as I was being blessed by God’s grace through the preaching, I had a whole other layer of thoughts lying underneath. I tend to have these dual-layer thoughts at church.

Toward the end of the sermon, the pastor shared a video (Devin’s Story) with us. It was a story he wanted to share with us to demonstrate what God could do if His people were committed to one another and to God’s vision for His community of people. My reaction went beyond feeling inspired and praiseful. There was…another layer. From the perspective of my ministry experience, I saw something else. I felt humbled by the boldness of Tyler, who took large steps toward God’s kingdom work: discerning God’s calling to a faraway place, having  conversations with mentors to confirm God’s call, raising support from his home church, moving out to New York City, slowly making connections with the youth of the city, and being intentional about his relationships. This is such a different vision of missions compared to the typical Korean Christian perspective. It feels so organic and entrepreneurial. It doesn’t surprise me…this is something I’ve noticed white Christians are fairly comfortable with doing. There’s an idea, perhaps a far-off vision. Like a business idea. Then effort goes into preparation, prayer, gathering information, evaluating options, mobilizing support. Then they go for it. I feel so timid in comparison (see my “Small business, small church” entry and part 2).

What the pastor said–and repeated for emphasis–was that the people involved had spent years stewarding God’s gifts with no fruit. As soon as I heard it, I was overcome. All I could think about was home. All I could think about was “years with no fruit.” My spirit cried out in longing for a bearing of fruit. If it was possible there, why not us? It was that joyful sadness again. How pitiful our state, how slow our growth, how seemingly useless my toil. God was so amazing in the testimony of this ministry…can He do the same in Living Exodus? I mean, I know He can, but…can He? I felt okay with not talking to anyone after service and eating a late dinner alone and heading back home on the subway alone. I needed some time with God to think over these thoughts.

I needed the reminder so badly. The decision to go to church that night was spontaneous. Though I had much reading to do, and it would take 40 minutes to get there, I went anyway. And oh was it so worth it.

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