Come Spirit of Life and Breath on Us

Easter Message

Rev. Dr. JC Park, President of the World Methodist Council
 
May the peace of the risen Jesus be with you, my sisters and brothers in Christ!

In times like this when we have to face social distancing and empty churches how can we preach
to the empty pews the message of the empty tomb? This question brings me back to the text of John
20. It begins with the story of the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene first discovered the tomb empty and
reported it to Simon Peter who also went to the empty tomb with John. But they did not understand
“the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).

Jesus appeared to Mary first, and later in the evening of the Easter he came to his disciples who were
forced to ‘social distance’ behind the locked doors of the house for fear of the Jews. Jesus stood
among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Jesus’ ‘Shalom!’ on Easter evening
resonates with his last words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Thus, peace of reconciliation
and life is fulfilled in Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Jesus’ ‘Shalom!’ is not so much a greeting of
everyday life but the most merciful and consoling invitation for those who have the sickness unto
death. We are ‘the patients’ who must willingly acknowledge our disease/sin and to receive with joy
the healing/salvation from the one who surely “took our infirmities and carried our sorrows”, and the
punishment upon him “brought us peace and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

We remember that Jesus’ second ‘Shalom!’ for his disciples was when he said to them,
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). This is rather a frightening call of the Lord
for his servants to leave the private space of beautiful solaces and to face again the public sphere
torn down by the empire of mammon. However, before they are called to be ‘the agents’ for the
Kingdom of God, i.e., the peacemakers or the ambassadors of Christ for reconciliation, they ought to
be poured on by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus sent his disciples “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John
20:22). Jesus breathes into each of us the breath of life to become a new creature. At the same time,
Jesus breathes into us all, as if we were those slain in Ezekiel 37. As the Jewish people in Exile whose
lands had turned into the graves, returned to their own by the quickening of the Spirit, we are called by
the authority of the Holy Spirit to be the Church, the body of Christ in the public sphere of our times.

Surely, I am not the only one who has been shocked by a recent photo of the inside of a refrigerated
truck full of the bags of the dead Americans. Indeed, we are now passing through the dark valley of
death in these trying times. Recollecting the tragic image of the corpses in my mind, I overhear the
challenging question of God: “Son of man, can these bones live” (Ezekiel 37:3a)? The prophet’s
answer, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3b), leads me into a profound insight that
the hope of the resurrection of body and life everlasting is not the inner-worldly possibility of
evolutionary process, but solely the eschatological grace of God’s sovereignty and His eternally
faithful love. Therefore, Paul boldly proclaims: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead
dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his
Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Do not be afraid of facing the rebellious world estranged from the
origin of life, our triune God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. First and foremost, we need to
recover the fundamental sense of fear of God in the form of ‘public vigilance’ over the idolatry
of money in the name of free market which has thrown our healthcare system into shambles. Let’s
“lay the sick in the marketplaces” where the living Christ is present (Mark 6:56). We should be part of
‘a Great Reset’ after the storm of pandemic has passed in order to celebrate Easter in the public
sphere of our life.

Ironically, human social distancing has allowed birds to thrive and brought people together in love,
though separately clapping, singing, and dancing. Let’s repent our sins of self-interest, privatizing
every corner of public lives and services, as well as destroying the precious habitat of wild animals
which might have caused the spread of viruses unheard of previously. Resist cold xenophobia and                                            hot racism blaming the innocent for the pandemic. Instead, let’s be in cool solidarity and remain                                              with warm human bond in taking global ethical responsibility to stop the vicious cycle of pandemic                              spread from the global North to the global South and again to the global North and so on.

Finally, people called Methodists from everywhere to everywhere, do not forget the risen Christ’s
empowering admonition: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven
them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22b-23). If you believe that Jesus’
resurrection restores a dead person to life, take sin in deadly earnest and commit yourselves to the
evangelical ministry of forgiveness with all your heart and might for “a dead person can only be
raised, resurrected, and grave sin can only be forgiven.” (Karl Barth) Let’s praise God “for as by a
man came death, by a man also has come resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in
Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Therefore, I solemnly ask you on behalf of the almighty God who raised Jesus from the dead to
witness to all people in fear and trembling: “Come from the four winds, spirit of life, and breathe on
these slain so that they come to life again” (Ezekiel 37:9). Let them come back to life and rise to their
feet, a mighty host.

Jesus is risen! Happy Easter!

Global Easter Worship to be April 13

Follow the link below: 

https://www.facebook.com/NAFAUM/

Sacrament of Empty Hands

 The Liturgy to this link follows the pattern of the Mass, Holy Communion, Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, and allows for the absence of consecrated bread and wine/juice – while retaining familiar foundations, in uncertain times…

This is not a replacement for Gathering as God’s People, embodied in community, but provides a way of people gathering around stories of hope from despair and resurrection after death.

It is envisaged this material could be used for people in homes, possibly connected digitally or across distances. Some planned gathering in Australia will use the material over internet, by phone or from balconies across courtyards.

This liturgy is offered, as a gift of prayer and solidarity from God’s People in Australia to the rest of an anxious and hurting world. Together, may we be God’s Humanity.

http://worldmethodistcouncil.org/worship-and-liturgy/sacrament-of-empty-hands/

Setting:

  • An empty cup or glass and An empty plate are place on a celebratory cloth (either white or many coloured).
  • A handkerchief or tissue covers both the cup/glass and plate.

Any or all of the following symbols may be added from week to week, or you may build these up to a collection over time:

  • Symbol 1 – An unlit candle is placed inside a glass or transparent vase or holder. It is also on the cloth or nearby.
  • Symbol 2 – A symbol for prayer is placed alongside the other symbols. This may be a cross, a stone with a heart drawn on it, or a wooden heart.
  • Symbol 3 – Photos of absent friends or loved ones or a regular place of worship.
  • Symbol 4 – A Globe or small map of the world.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sources:

A Call to Worship for a Dispersed Community – © Craig Mitchell, 2020, Used with permission.

A Call to Worship for an Online Community – © Amelia Koh-Butler, 2020, Used with permission.

Sections of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (Sharing and Invocation) – Claire Wright, based on Uniting in Worship 2, Used with permission.

Suggested Song –  Peace, Salaam, Shalom https://youtu.be/lBQ-KsGo_BI

(Emma’s Revolution. Note: several versions can be sourced on Youtube)

Scripture texts are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, © 1989, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Yarta Wandatha (The Land is Speaking. The People are Speaking), © 2014, Denise Champion and Rosemary Dewerse

Remaining Sections – © Amelia Koh-Butler, 2020, Used with permission.

Notes:

These resources are able to be used for Worship and Devotion, with appropriate acknowledgement.

Some communities may choose to reduce the test of the provided Prayer of Thanksgiving. It may be suitable to substitute the inclusion of the Nicene Creed as a way of proclaiming the Gospel story in words familiar to those who are then connecting with other faithful of many times and places.

A Resource: Worship and Devotion during Social Distancing

These attached guidelines and liturgies for worship and prayer during the pandemic are offered by a group of scholars, teachers, and worship leaders in The United Methodist Church. Click on the following link: 

https://www.ministrymatters.com/pandemic/165/christian-worship-and-devotion-during-social-distancing-a-resource-for-united-methodists

Churches Week of Action on Food is October 13-20

Christians of all denominations and traditions are encouraged to rejoice and give thanks for God’s abundant provisions and to think of ways to share God’s gifts, so that all have enough. Jesus’ parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14: 15-24) is used for inspiration and reflection. The image of a banquet refers to abundance, fellowship, joy and hope. All are invited.

But in today’s world, far too many people have no access to healthy nutrition. This is not because there is a lack of food, but because people fail to share so that all are able to partake in the feast of life.

The World Methodist Council family and ecumenical partners joined in producing liturgical materials and reflections for the 2019 Churches’ Week of Action on Food. This initiative of the World Council of Churches and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance offers support to churches in their ministries for food justice, equity, sustainability, and the alleviation of hunger and poverty around the globe.

Authored by people from around the world, it offers a taste of how differently we look at food security, healthy nutrition and a fair process of sharing earthly resources. There are examples of how churches might feed the hungry and expand love and hope. These reflections and liturgy for Holy Communion can be used in worships, prayer meetings and Bible study groups throughout the Churches Week of Action on Food and beyond. The material is available at:
https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/events/churches-week-of-action-on-food-2019

Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Centre in Rome

We are seeking an ordained person from a Methodist, Wesleyan United or Uniting Church to serve the World Methodist Council as Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Centre in Rome (MEOR).

The person appointed will develop and build on the work of MEOR on behalf of its partners, the World Methodist Council, European Methodist Council, the Methodist Church in Britain (MCB),the Methodist Churches in Italy (OPCEMI) and others, as a resource for the global Methodist family in order to help facilitate Methodist relationships with the wider ecumenical community, in particular with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Catholic Church (PCPCU).

The Director of MEOR will be someone who:

  • is fluent in English and is able to speak or willing to learn Italian,
  • holds a post-graduate qualification in theology,
  • has good knowledge and sensitivity about the world-wide family of Methodist and Wesleyan churches,
  • has a proven track record in ecumenical relations,
  • is able to work as part of a team and is also self-motivated,
  • has good verbal and written communication skills,
  • is IT literate.

For further information and application pack please visit: www.methodist.org.uk/jobs

The closing date for applications is 29th November 2019.

Interviews will take place in London on January 27 and 28, 2020.

Applications should be sent to recruitment@methodistchurch.org.uk

Further information about MEOR can be found at: www.methodistecumenicalofficerome.com and
www.methodist.org.uk/our-work/building-relationships/relationships-with-other-denominations/ecumenical-office-rome

Steering Committee expresses solidarity with Hong Kong Methodists

The World Methodist Council Steering Committee meeting in Mexico City 28-30 August greets you in the name of Christ our risen saviour.

We are deeply conscious of the unrest in Hong Kong and we write to you, our sisters and brothers in the Methodist Church Hong Kong and the Church of Christ in China Hong Kong as fellow members of the WMC, to assure you of our love and solidarity in these difficult times. We greatly respect the ongoing peace building work in which you are engaged.

Our hearts are burdened by the continuing protests in Hong Kong and the conflict this is causing in your society. It is our constant desire that all people live in safety so that we can flourish and fulfill our God-given potential.

We know that we join our prayers with those of the whole global Methodist, United and Uniting Church family as you seek to show God’s love and compassion and seek the way of righteousness.
We are reminded of these words from Colossians 3:12-15 and they are our prayer for you;

“Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And, over all these virtues put on love, which binds all together in perfect unity.” (NIV)

Amen.

Honoring the Ministry of Evangelist Billy Graham

The World Methodist Council mourns the loss of a great preacher, evangelist, and friend. The Rev. William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr., who died today (Feb. 21) at the age of 99.

Known as “America’s Preacher,” Graham ministered worldwide, bringing the gospel message to billions. His Crusades, along with radio and television broadcasts encouraged millions of people to decide to follow Christ. He counseled presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower, and was one of the most influential evangelists of his time.

World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams reflects, “Billy Graham was a man of his time, an evangelist par excellence who touched the lives of many including heads of State. We thank God for his life and witness and express condolences to his family.”

Graham was raised in a Presbyterian family and lived on a small farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. He became a Christian in 1934 at the age of 16. In 1939, he was ordained a Southern Baptist minister, and ten years later he captured the nation’s attention at a Crusade held in Los Angeles, California. In all, Rev. Billy Graham preached 417 Crusades.

In Graham’s early years of ministry, he spoke out against racism in the United States, and later publicly opposed apartheid in South Africa. He prohibited segregated seating at his crusades, which caused friction with some. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.” Likewise, Graham often spoke of his friendship with religious leaders such as King and Pope John Paul II.

Through the years, the World Methodist Council maintained a friendly connection with Rev. Graham and his Evangelistic Association. In 1956, Rev. Graham was a guest at the World Methodist Conference held at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Dr. Joe Hale met with Graham at his mountain home in the 1980s, and considered Graham a mentor, often exchanging letters with Graham during his tenure as General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. Hale heard Billy Graham preach when he was 16 years old and recalled, “It was then that I was led to commit my life to Christ, and as a result, the faith that I had been taught from childhood came to be meaningful and alive. I realized that Christ had died for me and provided salvation for my sins.”

Rev. Dr. Eddie Fox, Director Emeritus of World Methodist Evangelism also remembers his interactions with Rev. Graham. Having served on the faculty of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism for more than 15 years, Fox recalls “On more than one occasion [Rev. Graham] would send a message of encouragement to us.  We joined with him and leaders around the world in a great gathering at the beginning of this new millennium for a renewed, deeper commitment to the spreading of the good news ‘That the whole world would know Jesus Christ.’”

Graham, despite his success and notoriety, was deeply humble. He stated, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe, comes through knowing Christ.” In 1980, Graham preached at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, a recording of which can be heard at https://methodistthinker.com. He received many honors and awards, including the Philip Award from the Association of United Methodist Evangelists in 1976, The Distinguished Service Medal of the Salvation Army, and The Presidential Medal of Freedom (U.S.) in 1983.

The World Methodist Council extends its deepest condolences to the Graham family and friends. We pray that Rev. Graham’s passion for sharing Christ’s love will live on in the many lives he trained and touched.

Rev. Billy Graham’s Official Obituary may be found at https://memorial.billygraham.org/official-obituary/.

International Day of Families

Although families all over the world have transformed greatly over the past decades in terms of their structure and as a result of global trends and demographic changes, the United Nations still recognizes the family as the basic unit of society. The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them.It has inspired a series of awareness-raising events, including national family days. In many countries, this day is an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families.

The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year. Activities include workshops and conferences, radio and television programmes, newspaper articles and cultural programmes highlighting relevant themes.