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Note from the Pastor

“Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17


One of the phrases I hear a lot in describing this time of the coronavirus outbreak is “a time of testing.” From our patience, to relationships, to our faith in God – we are going through a period of testing. Today’s scripture verse speaks about being joyful always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances. I believe these verses are also a test – a test of our spiritual maturity. Anyone can find times in which to be joyful, thankful, or lift up a few prayers. But not everyone can do so “always” regardless of circumstance.

On November 3, 2020, surrounded by his immediate family, my beloved uncle, Bishop Hae Jong Kim, left this earth to be with the Lord. During the funeral service, as people stood up to share about my uncle’s life, there were two consistent themes. The first theme was that nothing came easy for him. From the loss of his father during the Korean War, to having to work several jobs in order to provide for his mother and younger siblings, to his struggle as the first in his family to immigrate to the United States, nothing came easy. Although he eventually rose to the ranks of Bishop in the United Methodist Church, his son reminded everyone during the service that “no one struggled more nor worked harder than my father.”

But the second theme when describing my uncle was that he was a person filled with an unbelievable inner peace. Family, friends, parishioners, and colleagues all shared that he never seemed to get anxious or angry but always seemed content. I can attest to this. My uncle had the same gentle and loving smile, whether he was leading hundreds of people at a United Methodist conference, or whether he was bedridden and cancer stricken during the last days of his life. During the funeral service, the pastor of my uncle shared that never in all his years in ministry, did he see someone who seemed so at peace before his passing. As the pastor read the 23rd Psalm, surrounded by his family, my uncle closed his eyes and breathed his last breath.

No one struggled more yet had as much inner grace and peace than my uncle. He was joyful always, prayed continuously, and gave thanks no matter how difficult his circumstances. In this sense, he ran the good race, fought the good fight, and passed all the tests of faith set before him. All of this was possible not because of his own strength, but through the power of Christ living within him. Even though we are going through this difficult time, may our testimony be the same as that of my uncle:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters,
He restores my soul…
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Pastor Kim

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PATIENCE

“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.”        James 5:7-8

One of the things I’ve come to realize about human perception versus Godly perception is that people tend to see what is directly in front of them versus God who sees the bigger picture. God’s big picture hope for all of us is that we become people of PATIENCE. Unfortunately, there is only one way to become a patient person, and that is to practice waiting. For example, a person who has never had to wait for much and is accustomed to getting what they want fairly quickly has not learned patience. On the contrary, they are probably rather impatient.

When I moved to Kazakhstan as a missionary, I realized for the first time, that I am extremely impatient. I am not accustomed to waiting for two hours to do a simple banking transaction.  Nor am I used to sitting on a bus for an hour (to another city), only to realize that the bus only leaves when the bus is full!  I haven’t experienced much of that in the United States. But for the people of Kazakhstan this is a normal everyday experience. Thus, they are quite good at patiently waiting for desired outcomes. They were not born patient, but learned it through many situations of having to wait. 

I believe one of the things God wants to develop in us, especially in today’s context, is patience.  The only way that can happen is by learning to live in the “not yet”. We do not yet see our church worshiping as we want, singing freely and hugging one another, but we wait patiently for that day. We do not yet see economic stability and the increase of jobs but we wait patiently for the day when people will be doing better once again. We do not yet see our resurrected bodies and souls, but even in the midst illness and death, we wait patiently for the day when the Lord will bring us home at last. Today’s verse states that a farmer does not yet see the harvest, but waits patiently for the spring and autumn rains.

One of the things God is doing even though we don’t see it in front of us is cultivating patience. And when I say patience, I mean not as something we “do” but as “who we are” – God is wanting us to “become” patient people.  A patient person will benefit in their relationships with their children and spouses. A patient person will remain calm when things aren’t going as planned. A patient person will learn to let go of the things they cannot control and leave the results to God. This is what God is cultivating beneath the surface. This is God’s big picture. And all that we are enduring right now is the season of waiting for that day of harvest. 

May we be reminded that even in the midst of all kinds of desolation, God is producing in us something beautiful – the seed of patience, which will manifest one day into a beautiful tree that gives life within us and around us. The day of the Lord’s return, a day of deliverance, healing, and fruitfulness is coming soon!  Until that day, let us patiently and in faith, for God’s return. 

Waiting in hope,
Pastor Kim

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Pastors Corner

“See the former things have taken place, and new things I declare, before they spring into being, I announce them to you.” – Isaiah 42:9

Recently, I was reading an article in Forbes called “Former POW Shares Thoughts on Surviving and Thriving in Difficult Times.” by Chris Cancialosi. Based on his own and other POW’s experiences in captivity, he described three general responses to prolonged uncertainty and difficulty. The first is false hope. These were prisoners who kept setting a date in which they thought they would be released. “Maybe by Christmas, maybe by Easter…” Unfortunately, over time they would lose a piece of themselves and be broken in spirit. The second were people who lost all hope. This group struggled the most and many of them did not make it out of captivity. The third and most successful group were those who maintained resilience. They faced the reality of their difficult situation but never lost hope that things would get better. 

While I am not saying that living through a pandemic is the same as being a prisoner of war, there are some similarities. Mainly, feeling a loss of control in the present and a deep uncertainty of what will happen in the future. In order to make it out of these difficult times, it will require this ability to look reality in the eye without ever losing hope that God will bring us to greener pastures and stiller waters. I believe this is the spirit in which the prophet Isaiah wrote. He denounced the injustice and evil of his time but always pointed Israel toward a better tomorrow.

One of the phrases I keep hearing is “the new normal.” As people talk about it, they say that things will never be the way they used to be. Instead, we have to get used to a new way of living. While there is partial truth in this, I believe that this mentality fails to imagine a better and more beautiful tomorrow. It lacks the essential ingredient to overcoming difficulty which is hope. 

Friends, God brings life out of death! When the former things pass away, God promises new and better things in the future! In our saddest and most difficult days (and there will be quite a few) we must never lose faith and hope that God will bring a better United States, a better New York City, a better Community United Methodist Church, a better family, and a better ME at the end of this ordeal. Keep praying and keep believing and God will bring us to the Promised Land!

In Christ,
Pastor Kim

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Pastor’s Corner

“Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for You in  Christ Jesus” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In times like these, every small thing has to be looked upon from the perspective of joy, prayer, and gratitude. I give all the glory and honor to God through Christ for opening up of our church building and resuming our Sunday worship services in the sanctuary! In the midst of terrible pain and loss, God has brought Community United Methodist Church through the storms toward a brighter tomorrow; and for this we cannot forget to be thankful. What a joy it has been to see people face to face (mask to mask) as opposed to through a phone or computer screen! While technology is also a tremendous gift that God has given us, nothing beats looking into the eyes of people whom you consider family. 

But the problem seems to be that for every good thing, there seems to be some sad, bad, or disappointing situation that is not far behind. For every church reopening, there is more news of the spread of COVID-19 and another story of someone passing away. What I have come to realize during this time is that in the end, each person has to make a conscious decision whether they will fix their eyes on what God is doing or whether they will realize all the things that are wrong with themselves, others, and this world, and be filled with negativity. 

As Paul reminds the church in Thessalonia, be joyful, pray continuously, and give thanks “in all circumstances.” More than a reaction to our situation, this positive attitude is a proactive decision we choose to make each day. Our health and well-being depend on it. Otherwise, we can find ourselves filled with all kinds of negative thoughts. For me, this has been the inward battle during this season of coronavirus. The evil one wants to steal my joy and bring me down but by the grace of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I choose to focus on all the good that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do. I choose to thank God for our church, for our reopening, for the health of family members, for the sunshine and the rain, and for the gift of  one more day, one more breath. 

Church, focus on the things that bring you joy, realize they come from God, giving God thanks, and continue to pray for God’s strength in your life and in the lives of those around you! Make it your choice today and everyday. God is good! All the time!

In Christ, 
Pastor Eumin

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Note from the Pastor

Grace and peace to you all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

It has been several months now since we last worshiped together in our beautiful sanctuary. I believe I speak for you all when I say that we miss meeting together and are eagerly awaiting the day when we can come back to the church.

This past week we have heard from both President Trump and Governor Cuomo about lifting some restrictions. The President has declared that all churches be considered “essential services” and open up immediately. Our governor has stated that religious groups can begin to meet with a maximum of 10 people. Each of you may also have differing opinions about opening the doors to the church.

Recently, Bishop Bickerton wrote a 26 page document about the process of how and when United Methodist Churches in the New York Annual Conference. In reading this, it was a carefully and prayerfully written plan which will be used by all United Methodist churches in his conference. Without going into all the details, he says that churches will open by regions, with less infected regions opening first. Also, within each region, each local church must submit detailed information about their plan for reopening. The plan will be based on certain requirements set out by our bishop and needs to be submitted to our district superintendent for approval. Only after our region is declared safe and our local church has met all requirements will we actually open. No specific dates have been given yet for our region but for now, all churches will remain closed until JUNE 15.  For more specific information, I encourage you to read the bishops most recent letter sent out to all the churches in his region. Here is a link to the 26 page document detailing the process: 
https://www.nyac.com/files/pdfs/nyac-covid-19-guidelines-for-church-reopening.pdf
Here is a link to the NYAC website for the Bishop’s letter and other resources: 
https://www.nyac.com/covid-19-guidelines-for-church-reopening

I understand that there may be some concerns about this news but I have been a lifelong Methodist spanning three generations and trust in our denomination and leadership very much. Unlike “free” or “independent” churches who make their own decisions, we are part of a connectional system of churches under the leadership of regional bishops. Therefore, we will trust our leadership and follow their requirements.

Our church council will begin to meet and make our plans for reopening based on the document we received. Thus, when our region is declared safe enough to reopen, we will be prepared to open our doors to all of you under very specific criteria. Safety will be of utmost importance. We will inform the rest of the church once our plan is approved by our district superintendent.

Again, I thank you all for your patience and let us keep praying until the day we see each other face to face!

In Christ,
Pastor Kim

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A Mother’s Day Tribute

Some things are temporary while other things are more permanent. My need for a haircut is temporary. The newest I-phone or latest television craze…also temporary. Even the worldwide pandemic (despite long-term consequences) is temporary. These difficult days will come to an end. At almost fifty years old, I’ve seen many things come and go, things that are here today and gone tomorrow. But today I want to speak about permanent things…everlasting things… heavenly treasures and not earthly ones. I want to speak about a mother’s love.

As I look in the mirror at who I am today, I see a lot of my mom in me. A sensitive and compassionate spirit, a passion for hospitality and feeding people, spiritual disciplines like tithing and praying that my mother religiously made sure I did, they are parts of my mom’s character and values that exist in me today.

When I was serving as a missionary in Central Asia there was a family who wanted to send their daughter to the local missionary school but lived too far away. After much prayer and discussion our family decided that she could live with us. For the next two years we cared for her as if she was our second daughter. It’s interesting but I now see that even such a decision was because of my mother’s influence. Growing up we always had people in need temporarily staying with us. So much of who I am came from the tireless care, intentional teaching, and unspoken modeling of behavior by my mother.

I realize not everyone has the same experiences as me and for many Mother’s Day brings up feelings of pain, absence, and even loss. In fact, how many people around the world have lost a maternal figure through this pandemic! What a bittersweet day it will be, I cannot begin to imagine.

But this I know. The love of a mother or maternal figure is something that can never be tarnished, taken, nor destroyed. It is a gift of God that lives in you, extends toward others, and will remain for eternity. May we give thanks to God as we celebrate those people who poured out love toward us and made us who we are today. For mothers and maternal figures all around the world, Happy Mother’s Day!

Pastor Kim

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Unjust Suffering

1 Peter 2:19-25


“For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly…For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19, 21)


I hate to categorize suffering but unjust suffering is the worst – to go through suffering for something you feel you do not deserve. My daughter is an extremely hard-working and dedicated student and her grades show the fruit of her effort. But one of her teachers is struggling with online teaching, often mixing up assignments and changing due dates at the last minute. As a result, my daughter’s grades have dropped in that class. Despite reaching out to the teacher, she admits no fault and shows no grace. This has devastated my daughter because she feels it is unfair and unjust….Right now, there are so many people who feel this way. “I have been a good citizen, I have been a good husband or wife, I have worked hard, I have been a faithful Christian. Why am I diagnosed, why have I lost someone I love, why am I unemployed, why do I feel lonely and depressed in my home right now?” It does not make sense and feels so undeserving.

I have heard many Christians claim that because they are obedient and trust God, God will not let any harm fall on me. God will not allow the coronavirus to touch me or my family. While the Bible does state that God provides protection and watches over the faithful, (and I pray to my Sovereign God each night to protect my family and loved ones!), it is also true that it is not “all the time.” There are times God allows us to suffer, to get sick, and even fall. God will not swoop down every time I call on His name. That is what today’s scripture says. “It is a credit to you if being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly… for to this you have been called because Christ also suffered (unjustly) for you.”

It would be arrogant for me to say exactly why God has allowed someone they love to get sick or pass away during this time. My finite mind cannot fully comprehend the ways of God. It would also be presumptuous to give a simple and universal answer to the immense suffering of so many people. But what I can say to you with confidence is that your struggle “is a credit to you” (1 Peter 2:19) Every tear that is shed is being compassionately counted by God. What you sow in sorrow will be reaped one day in manifold grace.

What I am going through is not unjust cruelty or callous indifference on God’s part. This is a virus that has no borders and touches the just and unjust alike. But this storm too will pass, and God’s hand will give to you much more than what has been taken away! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. Where suffering abounds, healing and hope abounds even more. Where death abounds, victory and life abounds even more! This is our hope and this is what the Word of God declares to us today. In the mean time, may the presence and power of God carry you through the storm toward a better tomorrow.

Pastor Kim

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Thankful

Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” – Ephesians 1:15-16

Apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus thanking them for their faith in Christ and love for one another. Lately I have been asking God to show me what I can be thankful for in the midst of such difficult times. While it has been challenging to maintain a spirit of thanksgiving, one area that overflows with gratitude is the faithful witness of the people in this church. I have seen so many acts of faithful obedience, lavish generosity, and compassionate care here at Community UMC.

I know of health care workers within our community who have told me that God continues to give them strength to place their lives at risk every day. In fact, one individual told me “I don’t feel burdened or worried but have a peace inside me as I go about my duties.” I cannot even imagine interacting with COVID patients every day and having a sense of calm in the midst of the storm. It is inspiring and clearly evidence of the power of Christ working within this church member and many others like him.

I have heard of the many people from this church that are calling our older members to encourage them and see if they have any material or spiritual needs that the church can help with. I know this for a fact because I have experienced countless times when I have called a person, only to hear that several other church members have been calling to check up on them consistently. It may seem small but it warms my heart to see such care in action.

I have been amazed by the generous giving that is taking place as members have been reaching out to me asking how they can continue their offerings for God and the church. From the person who has very little but gives generously to the individuals who have given large gifts to help the church overcome this financial hardship, it has been heartwarming because this is not money but love!

And of course, I have been deeply moved by the continued faith in God, in the prayers that are continuously lifted up, and in the confidence that God will get us through this that seems to be the pervasive sentiment among the people I have heard from. I have truly been inspired and encouraged by your faith in God, love for one another, and service to the world. It is so important that the family of Community UMC understands that we are alive and well! God is still moving in our midst and for this, we should be thankful!

I eagerly look forward to the day when we can see each other face to face but until then, may the grace and love of Christ continue to be with you all!

Thankful,

Pastor Kim

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Hope

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”   – 1 Peter 1:3

Hope is an interesting idea. Glass half empty people would say that it stirs up emotions that only end up disappointing you. This is called “false hope.” Another way of looking at hope is from the perspective of “guarded hope” – which is to say that we don’t want to get our hopes up only to be disappointed. So we cautiously start to increase hope only when there is enough evidence for it. And of course there are a lot of people who come from the perspective of “hope-less” which means that at some point they hoped in a person or situation only to be disappointed enough to realize that things will not change.

I think all three of these hopes are actually accurate when it comes to placing hope in people and situations. Situations and people often do disappoint us, and hope can be crushed. After all, we live in a sinful and broken world and sometimes human selfishness and pride get in the way. But Peter reminds us that our hope is not in people or circumstances. Our hope is not in what statistics are showing about the flattening of the coronavirus spread. Our hope is not in whether things will open up in time for us to start working again. Our hope is not in what decisions will be made by our leaders. No, our hope is a “living hope” that is placed in the perfect power and love of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ!

We are entering the liturgical season of Easter and it is a time that we declare that Christ is Risen. Sin and death had no hold over Christ but He overcame it all. The promise Christ gives believers is that His resurrection power now lives in us through presence of the Holy Spirit. He not only lives, but He lives in us! Therefore we declare that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Friends, our hope is not in leaders, institutions, or the economy but in Jesus Christ – the Son of the Living God, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is our living hope who died, was buried, three days later rose again, and now lives and reigns with God and the Holy Spirit in the heavens above and in our hearts!

Pray to your Living Hope. He will not disappoint you. He will not leave you nor forsake you but will provide for all your needs, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Seek the Living Hope and the Peace of Christ will be with you now and forevermore!

Pastor Kim

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Holy Week Devotional – April 9

Bible Reading: John 13:1-17

Key verse: John 13:14 “So if I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Why did Jesus do it? Why did he wash their feet? Why did he break the bread and give the cup to his disciples on that final night? Maundy Thursday, our Lord and Savior — washing feet and breaking bread. I’d like to suggest two reasons.

First (and the more obvious reason) is that Jesus wants us to do the same (John 13:14). As followers of Christ, we should lower ourselves and lift up the lowly. When I was serving as a pastor of a house church in Kazakhstan, we would share a meal after Sunday worship services. I love to cook, so on occasions I would cook and clean for the congregation. For those who are not familiar with the culture of Central Asia, pastors are revered and considered one step below Jesus. Thus, for many of the older members, they had a real problem with their pastor cooking and cleaning up after them! In fact, they insisted that I sit down and yelled for someone “lower” to take my place. Realizing over time that I would not listen, they eventually came to accept my act of service and hospitality. In the end, the congregation decided to take turns cooking and cleaning each week as they learned to serve one another. Jesus humbled himself even to death on a cross and was willing to sacrifice His life for others. As followers of Christ, we are called to a life of serving and sacrifice, especially for the forgotten and the least in society.

Second, Jesus broke bread and washed feet to show us our true worth. When he washed the feet of his disciples, it was an expression of their position. Only people of high position were served in this way. For the rest of their lives and especially when they would fall, each disciple could look back and remember that the King of Kings, the Son of the Living God, washed their feet! In the eyes of God, they were people worthy of such an honor — not because of anything they did, but because when Christ died on the cross, He took our sin and shame and exchanged it for His glory and righteousness. Through the blood of Christ, we have become heirs and co-heirs with Christ the King (Romans 8:17). That makes us princes and princesses to God. We are royalty. That is who we are. No matter what happens, no matter what people may think or say about you, no matter how much money you make or what kind of job you have, remember your true identity. You are sons and daughters of the living God, created in God’s image, living masterpieces that have been restored through the blood of Christ.

Blessings,
Pastor Kim

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