Blessing of Gratitude
I used to get up at 5 am. A new habit occurred to me due to living beside the church. In any minute, I can bump into people at the church so I shave and take a shower in case I meet someone. Taking a cup of coffee and preparing Yun’s coffee, I leave for church. With fresh air, birds singing, and a peaceful morning pond, my heart is full of gratefulness for where I am. After a short bible reading or spiritual reading in my office, I then go to the sanctuary and kneel in front of the communion table on a prayer stool. I enjoy complete silence for 30 minutes or so, waiting for some insights or God’s voice.
In Taize, France for my spiritual pilgrim, I chose a complete silence for 7 days and volunteered to clean the toilet in the afternoon. It was hard to be in silence cleaning the toilet with my fellow silent pilgrimages and for people to talk to me. I just responded to them with a smile and body language. Except singing Taize chants, I had been in silence and did a breathing prayer: “Let Christ (my true self) be in me (inhale) and let my EGO (selfish desire) go (exhale). That was all I did. Most of my time was waiting for God and listening to myself. It was a good to feel my own being and then God gave me the sense of gratefulness for being alive in Taize.
Thanksgiving through the wonder of simply being alive, at experiencing so many marvels and miracles day after day. Awe that God can rest within me, transform me into an image of Christ. I simply tried to grasp it in gratitude. Life for Christians can be summarized into four words as we celebrate the Communion every month: TAKE; BLESS; BREAK; GIVE. Likewise, my life is taken by God, being blessed, and being broken, and being given to the world.
"In giving me life, Jesus chose me to follow him. In my baptism Jesus blessed me, consecrated me to be his disciple. In my suffering Jesus broke me, burns out the damnable concentration on self, remolds me to himself, shapes and (gives) me as a person for others. And so, wherever I am, Jesus gives me-chosen, blessed, and broken-give me to a whole little world for its salvation.” (W. Burghardt)
That’s the life that God wants us to be: a good life. I want to share the power of gratitude this coming Sunday, one of the blessings of becoming a Christian. Mission team to Maine will report how they gave themselves to others: the living story of these four elements. Come and join in this celebration of life and experience of God’s presence!
Your pastor, Seok-Hwan
I am here for you, my friends in Christ!
I get up, take a shower, and drink a cup of coffee. Then I go to the church office. Kneel before God and ask for God’s mercy and guidance for the day. It has been my holy habit to be alone, alone with God in the early morning. It is around 6-7 o’clock AM. My first day sitting in my office, I feel strongly blessed to have people I serve and the church I do ministry for. Nowadays, I am trying to remember the names of church family using the picture book provided by SPRC. Please forgive me if I address you incorrectly or mispronounce your name. I will do my best to remember you quickly.
My main focus as a pastor is on two things: visitation and preaching. The visitation to the church members is the main source of my preaching. I love spending time with people and listening to stories from people, because without the time spent together, relationships can be shallow. I eagerly want to meet you all and to share my stories and yours. Without knowing you, I cannot understand you. Without understanding you, I cannot love you deeply. Without loving the congregation, my ministry will not be effective and life-changing. “If I have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor.13:2)
In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, having been imprisoned and later hung by the Nazis in Germany, asserts that communal life, the physical presence of other Christians, is a gift of grace. Christian community is unified through and in Jesus Christ. We Christians must regard community as not a ‘dream world’ of great experience and discoverable riches, but as inherently messy; for it is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. Life together begins with you and me here and now in Christ.
Two things I ask your help with: Invite me to your place or visit me in my office. I am here for you. I will be in my office (8 AM -12 noon) if there is no other engagement. My visits to you will be in the afternoon. I believe, the more we know; the deeper we share life. I am looking forward to getting to know you by seeing, talking and sharing face-to-face.
Your pastor, Seok-Hwan
Hooray! Hooray! Finally, I’m coming home!
Blue skies; tall pine trees; green oak trees; peaceful Stony Brook reservoir; a little hot for early summer; sunlight; fresh air with a little breeze; migrant and resident singing birds; and warm and welcoming people on my first Sunday morning here at Westford UMC! With great expectation and a little anxiety, I opened a new chapter of my life and ministry here.
Over the last seven years, I have visited 65 churches, worshiping as a district superintendent, supervising pastors and churches, and cheerleading them to be the church of Jesus Christ in their communities. Each Sunday, I wondered where I would go and what I would do: checking the troubled church or helping the sick pastor, encouraging a depressed community or learning from new-born flourishing non-denominational churches. Whether driving two and half hours to Provincetown UMC on Cape Cod, or 5 minutes to Epworth UMC in Pawtucket, RI on Sunday for worshipping God. It was quite a challenging routine. Though exciting at first, as time went by, it was an unsettling and lonely journey as a worshipper, meeting different people at different communities every Sunday. I missed having a stable and deep relationship with worshiping people. I liked the churches and loved the people where I visited -- but it was just visitation, a one-time event. It was not enough to see them once a year in a church meeting setting.
Finally, I feel at home. Home sweet home, with my own people to love and to be loved. I now look forward to Sunday and meeting the same people to whom I am entrusted, and to worship God together in the same place Sunday after Sunday. I am so grateful for this special privilege.
Dear friends! Thank you for being my family and thank you for your generosity to accept me as your companion in this journey on earth. I will be there for you again with a great feast of the word of God this coming Sunday. I look forward to seeing whoever can join us as we worship together.
Your pastor, Seok-Hwan
Greetings in the name of LOVE and HOPE, Jesus Christ our Lord!
When I came to Westford on February 2, the first thing that caught my eye was water: Is it a pond, lake or river? It was still a chilly winter, but so beautiful and peaceful. On June 20, we moved into the parsonage in more peaceful and gorgeous surroundings with green trees and the church sign with my name, “Rev. Dr. Seok-Hwan Hong.” It makes me realize that I am really here. In addition, the church welcomed and helped us to settle down quickly. Thank you all
I love to run and walk. So, I researched trails in Westford and discovered some interesting information: “The woods are full of migratory song birds such as various warbler species, scarlet tanangers, orioles, and thrushes. Many resident birds such as barred, screech and great horned owl nest here too.” (Westford Newsletter) I, as a migratory singing bird will join you, many resident birds, in worship this Sunday, July 2.
I have tried to prepare my first sermon to be all impressive and memorable, making it much harder to prepare. Finally, I gave up my strong desire to make an impressive sermon. Instead, I decided to share my heart and dream of what God wants us to be and to do in this new journey. I am ready to welcome you all and embrace you with a big heart and cheerful mind, which makes me both excited and a little nervous.
I am waiting to encounter my new church family with great expectation and love. I strongly believe that as Stony Brook Reservoir contains enormous water, our Lord Jesus Christ has already prepared the reservoir of Love and Hope in the community of Westford. Come, come to experience God’s unimaginable reservoir of Grace and Love. You, as resident birds, and me, as a migratory song bird, shall become a family through worshipping One God the Creator on Sunday morning!
Now your pastor, Seok-Hwan
10 Church Street
Westford, MA 01886
Sunday Morning Worship
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