I am Grateful

As I sat today in our joint worship service at the Korean Presbyterian Church I attend, watching the youth execute a praise dance, listening to the adult choir cantata, hearing and seeing the confirmation of kids from the youth group, singing in broken Korean the words to the familiar song, “Because He Lives,” and partaking in communion, I found myself at points holding back tears.  These were tears, not of sorrow, nor loss, nor sighing, but were rather tears of joy and gratitude.

I was not especially struck by the beauty of the singing (though it was beautiful), nor was I impressed by the testimony of the young girl who talked about her conversion (though it was compelling), and certainly not by the baby who screamed and cried throughout her baptism.  No, I was rather struck with a profound sense of gratitude for the overwhelming grace of God. Here I sat literally with believers from the other side of the world, and figuratively with believers from around the world and down through history proclaiming again that Christ has Risen!

On Thursday night, my elder brother preached at my father’s church for Maundy Thursday service.  I almost always enjoy his preaching, but as my sister said today, the way he preaches about Christ’s death just simply shocks and moves you at the same time.  As he talked about the bloody Christ, the suffering servant, I thought about how undeserving is the life I have.  And this morning as I took the bread and the cup, I felt again deeply grateful.

“Resurrection Sunday is my favorite holiday,” I told my sister.  And it is.  It of all days, is THE day of grace.

“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear them no more.  Praise the Lord Praise the Lord, Oh my soul!!”

“Oh Praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead.”

“God sent His son. They called him Jesus. He came to love, heal, and forgive.  He lived and died to buy my pardon. An empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives.  Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”

Christ has Died!

Christ has Risen!

Christ will Come Again!

The Joint

Today we celebrated the festival of the resurrection. It is, or at least should be, the most holy and high holiday of the year, much more important than the festival of the incarnation (Christmas). In preparation for the day, I read a couple of books in defense of the Christian faith and also read through the four gospel accounts. As is customary our church had a combined service in which all segments of the church participated; children, youth, English congregation, and KM. I briefly debated whether I should participate in the service or if I should take the opportunity to visit a church out of my own Black Pentecostal tradition (i.e. my father’s church). I decided, after praying and experiencing the Lord’s conviction, to go to my church – the Korean Presbyterian one.

The service was, of course, longer than is typical; nearly three hours altogether, with 3 sermons, two performances by the youth, and a full fledged cantata orchestrated by the KM choir. My upbringing in the Pentecostal church put me in better stead than many of my co-parishioners from the English speaking congregation who were unable to endure such a lengthy service. Did I mention we also celebrated the Lord’s Supper and had a baptism?

As I sat in worship singing along to the cantata in my broken Korean watching as a silent video of “The Passion of the Christ” played on the overhead, I had ample time to reflect on such question as the evidence of the resurrection. As I sang, and read the English translation, as I took my bread and cup, bowed my head in prayer, celebrated the baptism (though I disagree with the method) of new Christians, I had lots of time to allow what I experienced to sink in.

It is Christ that is the center of the resurrection event. Perhaps that is why “Easter” has never quite caught on as a holiday – we are decidedly on the sidelines in the celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead. There are no gifts given, no special songs, and no customary foods. There is merely the reality that a man, once dead, was made alive again by the power of God. That truth, that sacred reality is what made it possible nay even enjoyable to worship with these Korean folks. I marveled that in English, in Korean, in Twi, in French, in Swahili, in Farsi, in languages unknown to me – the Lord Jesus Christ is praised. I marveled that this day, above all other days, is a day that levels the field – placing us all at the foot of the cross and yet also elevates each of us, making us more truly man, more authentically woman, more fully Black, more completely Chinese than any other day. Today is a day of grace, wherein God demonstrates his mercy and exonerates his son, forever banishing the fearful specter of death, hell, and the grave.

What does this have to do with my decision to go to the Korean church instead of my Dad’s church? Simply this; the resurrection is the thing that even makes it possible for me to have that choice. For all the failings of “the church” in general and of my church specifically, it is the creation of this special day. Despite the complaint of our generation about how often out of touch or irrelevant the church can be, the wonderful gift of God is that we can be the church, and that I am indeed family with these Korean believers and with believers all over the world. In no other place or way is such a thing possible. Indeed, had I been anywhere else in the world on this day and see that this gospel, this obscure faith that by all human measurements should have been snuffed out, started as it was by illiterate men and poor women, is not a gospel confined to a people, a language or a place. I thought to myself, the privilege of being called a son of God is worth the very minor inconvenience of worshipping in a language not my own.

This realization makes me wonder if the bridge between generations in the Asian American Church can be built by beginning at the ground floor of our joint inheritance as sons of God and heirs of the promise. Unfortunately, I suspect that many are much more ready to build those bridges outside of the community rather than within it.