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Advent 2021

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked paths shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all humankind will see God’s salvation.” – Luke 3:4-6

When a king proposed to visit a part of his dominion, he would send a courier before him to tell the people to prepare the roads. When John the Baptist declares that people should prepare a way for the Lord, I am certain this imagery was clear to the people who were listening. But rather than preparing their roads for a king, John is declaring that people needed to prepare their hearts and lives for the coming of the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior. 

Advent is a season (4 weeks leading up to Christmas) of preparing our hearts and lives so that we can truly experience the hope, joy, love, and peace that Christ came to this earth to bring us. But in order for us to experience this, it requires a process of spiritual preparation. The truth is that such preparation requires work and commitment. 

Our United Methodist founder John Wesley described what he called “means of grace.” These are intentional practices of the Christian life that place us in a position to experience God’s abundant grace and love. I would like to suggest that during this season of Advent, you commit to practicing these means of grace as a way of preparing yourselves for the coming of Christ. 

Some means of grace you can practice and commit yourselves to include:
Prayer – commit to a certain period of time each morning or evening for the sole purpose of prayer. Prayers can include confession, thanksgiving, and supplications to God.
Fasting – commit to refraining from something that you value (food, drink, television, internet, phone). For example, I have committed to not using my phone for games, internet, youtube, every evening until after Christmas. Instead, I will focus my time and energy in filling myself more with the things of God. 
Scripture – commit to reading daily a certain amount of scripture. Try to read it not as analysis but as God’s word speaking directly to you. If you read 1 chapter from Luke every day during Advent, except on Sundays (Nov 29-Dec25), you will read the entirety of the gospel of Luke. I will also post short reflections daily on our Facebook page. 
Worship – commit yourself to not missing Sunday worship whether it be in-person or online throughout the Advent Season.
Fellowship – commit yourself to getting involved in a smaller group or ministry of the church if you have not already done so. Some examples are women’s group, men’s group, monthly feedings, prayer meeting, bible study, and online small group.  

May you prepare your hearts during this season of Advent and may you encounter the hope, joy, love and peace that Christ came to bring to us all.

Pastor Kim

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A Note from the Pastor

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 5:17

As I get older, what I’ve come to realize is that human beings are people of repetition. It is very easy for us to get into a routine. Sometimes those routines offer stability and serve a positive purpose. At other times, our routines can turn into cycles of complacency, stress, or strife. Coronavirus, unfortunately, has resulted in quite a few bad habits for people. For instance, I was much more physically active before the pandemic. Now I find myself drawn more easily to the couch and a bag of chips! While it’s much easier to fall into bad habits, breaking free from them remains more challenging. 

The Good News is that Christ promises that change is possible! In Christ, we are new creations where the old has gone and the new is here. Through Christ, God gives us the power to change our attitudes and actions. At the same time, this change does not happen overnight. Indeed, to encounter the grace of Christ may happen in a moment, but to grow in Christ-likeness takes a lifetime. More so, in order to change it will require a level of intention and diligence from each of us.

Based on a few scriptures, I would like to suggest three particular areas where “if” we choose to be diligent, God promises change in our lives. First, be diligent in our attitude toward Christ. Scripture says that those who “seek” will find. (Mt 6:33) If we hunger and thirst for Christ more than desiring pleasure, money, or success – we are promised that we shall indeed find Him. Second, be diligent in your commitment to Christ. Jesus calls us to be his disciples, and the life of any disciple is to commit themselves; to make an intentional decision to follow Him. This autumn, make a commitment, whether it be to attend services, join a weekly ZOOM ministry, or serve the needy. Third, be diligent in renewing your mind to be like that of Christ. (Romans 12:1) Many people are fixed in their opinions and thoughts. But if God is truly going to change us from the inside out, we need a teachable spirit. This autumn, be open to the possibility that God wants to show you something new. Humble yourselves by having an open mind.  

If we seek Christ with all our heart, if we commit ourselves to Him, and if we allow our minds to be teachable and moldable, I believe God will begin to bring about beautiful change in our lives. The old will begin to fade, and the new life that Christ promises of joy, hope, peace, and love will flourish. 

Pastor Kim

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From the Pastor

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

As COVID infection rates continue to drop and restrictions have been lifted in the United States, the hard truth is that more than 3.8 million people worldwide have lost their lives from this horrible disease. Indeed, though our numbers are at an all-time low, places like India have been hit especially hard in recent days. All of this is to say that a lot of people are suffering. While I find myself tempted to close my eyes and simply look the other way, I realize that this is not the response God wants from me. In the scripture verse above, God is described as a God of compassion and comfort who comforts us so that we can comfort others. 

As a teenager, I moved from Ohio to New York in the middle of 10th grade. Although this seems relatively small in the scale of suffering, for a teenager, nothing could be worse than being pulled away from your friends. To make matters worse, I had a real difficult time adjusting to my new school and making friends. In my loneliness I remember praying to God every night and asking God why I had to go through this. To this day, I also remember the many nights where I sensed God holding me and quietly speaking  words of comfort to me. Looking back, I would say that these tender moments of experiencing God’s comfort were the beginning stages in my calling into the ministry. I remember telling God I wanted to take on a profession where I could “help” others because of the help I had received from the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort.

There have been many sad nights for many people around the world. Though I can’t explain all the reasons for their suffering, I can say with confidence that you and I are charged with an important task, and that is to be a source of compassion and comfort to those around us. As we have experienced the powerful presence of God in our darkest moments, we are charged to be a source of comfort to others during their darkest moments. Friends, there is much work to be done in the days ahead and I pray that God will use you as agents of healing toward your family, community, and world. 

Pastor Kim

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Note From the Pastor

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) 

Since March of last year, our world has been turned upside down by COVID. The toll it has taken on all of us is tangible and real. At the same time, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. Infection rates in New York are at an all-time low, people are getting vaccinated, and regulations are starting to lift. While we slowly but surely continue to open things up within our church, there is hope as we move toward the future.

So why is it that for some people (including myself), the effects of COVID on our mental, emotional, and even spiritual state still linger? I’ve found myself wondering why I still feel so burdened and tired when everything is pointing in the right direction. If some of you are feeling like I am (although I hope and pray you are NOT!) I wanted to offer some encouragement. Several weeks ago, I started a six-week sermon series on “Getting Unstuck: Moving from Floundering to Flourishing.” The motivation behind these series of sermons was to explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. According to the scriptures, I believe that discipleship is the key that unlocks the door to the promises that Christ offers, including abundant life. 

In the times of Jesus, children would leave their family and homes in order to follow a rabbi who had chosen them as disciples. It was a tremendous honor but required the utmost commitment. The goal of all disciples was to one day become like their rabbi – walking, talking, and living like the one they chose to follow. 

I believe the reason so many people including Christians are struggling to live a life filled with meaning, power, and joy is because the key aspects to being an authentic disciple are not evident in their lives. Things like being rooted in the knowledge of the scriptures, forming a deep and intimate prayer life, experiencing vulnerable and authentic Christian community, and living out a life of purpose and meaning through practicing mission and evangelism are missing in our lives. 

I invite all of you to join me over the next few weeks in re-committing yourselves to a life of true discipleship. The power and joy that Christ himself experienced can be ours as well as we grow to become more like our rabbi! Join me every Sunday as we take this journey of moving from floundering to flourishing. 

                                        In Christ, 
                                        Pastor Kim

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Lent 2021

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Matthew 16:24-25

Just prior to Jesus telling his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him, there is a distinct shift in the life and ministry of Christ. Several verses earlier, He tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed, and on the third day be raised to life (Mt 16:21). More specifically, Jesus will deny himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he asks God to take this cup of suffering away yet concludes His prayer by saying “not my will, but Yours be done.” He will literally carry his cross – the instrument of his own execution to the hill called Golgotha; and He will choose to follow the will of His Abba Father by dying on the cross. Thus, when he tells his disciples to deny themselves, carry their cross, and follow Him, Jesus is asking them to follow His own example. 

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of a 40-day journey we Christians call Lent. It is a journey of self-denial, carrying our cross, and following Christ. Of course, there is nothing about this process that sounds remotely desirable. But we choose this journey with the belief that by the end, it will bring us to the same place it did for Jesus, mainly our own “resurrection.” This is not simply a resurrection that happens in our life after death, but a resurrection power NOW that raises us above the sorrows, sickness, and storms that we encounter in this life. 

During my 8 years in Kazakhstan, serving on the mission field, there were many a day when I cried out to God, that the hardships I faced were too great to bear, and I wanted to jump ship and return to the United States. Each time, God reminded me that there are times in our Christian journey where we have to carry our cross in order to follow God. What sustained me during that time was the hope that God was preparing something glorious at the end of this road. God’s plan was not my suffering but the resurrection that followed! 

I truly believe the resurrection for me is Community United Methodist Church! God was preparing me for this very ministry and spending these days with each of you. God also knew a pandemic would come and was preparing me and creating endurance, so that we may hold on to each other and make it through this storm. With tears in my eyes, I write to confess that it is truly my joy and honor to serve alongside all of you and that I’ve been resurrected from days that were difficult and dark. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. 

I believe this is God’s desire for all of you. Whatever it is that God is asking you to sacrifice even though it is difficult, by choosing this road in order to follow Christ, God promises each of you that same resurrection power at the end of your journey. May God give us the strength and courage to make difficult choices for the sake of Christ. And may we all experience the glorious resurrection at the end of our Lenten journey.

Pastor Kim

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And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   Hebrews 10:24-25

As all of you are aware, CUMC continues to try to find the balance between in-person gatherings and proper safety measures. By the grace of God, we have had no known outbreaks where COVID spread as a result of in-person gatherings. We have had a few instances where members of our church and those who share facilities with us have contracted COVID but each time, we were able to quarantine individuals and close the building until it was deemed safe to return. I would like to inform you all that our church services are open again for in-person services. At the same time, we provide a livestream every Sunday for those who prefer to worship from home. We also continue to offer a women’s small group, prayer meetings, and bible studies each week through ZOOM as a means of continuing to fellowship and grow spiritually. 

    I would like to say one thing that God has placed on my heart. The times in which we live are difficult times and I’ve seen many examples of people who are starting to “spiritually drift.” What started as a way to keep safe has resulted in not putting in the same amount of effort toward what today’s scripture calls “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds” through “meeting together” It is no accident that if we feel we are struggling spiritually, it may be because we are less connected to other believers. The spiritual life as God intended it requires us to be in intimate community. I understand that the present situation poses some challenges but I want to encourage all of you to find your own way of remaining connected. Whether it be to join one of our ZOOM meetings during the week, call another church member to offer support, or simply reach out to me as your pastor for spiritual counsel, we can all be doing something – even during these challenging times. 

    The season of Lent is coming up and I would suggest making a commitment to “connect” during those 40 days. Decide what you can do to remain connected to the body of Christ (the church) as a way of serving others but also receiving spiritual nurture. May God continue to keep us united as Community United Methodist Church! God bless each of you and your families!

Pastor Kim

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Food & Clothing Distribution

On Saturday, December 26, members of the CUMC English congregation braved the elements and distributed food and clothing to the local residents of Jackson Heights. The morning started with a scare as 50 whole chickens which were being stored in the church freezer had thawed out because of a malfunction with the freezer. But because of the outpouring of donations to purchase food, we were able to purchase fifty $10 gift cards to Food Town and people who received the canned goods and gift cards were extremely grateful. The distribution would not have been possible without the generous donations of food, finances, and clothing from so many congregants! We continue to pray for the many families who are struggling with basic necessities and hope that we can continue to provide for peoples’ needs through the power and grace of Christ. 

Pastor Kim

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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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“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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