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[September 2020] Pastoral Message

This summer hasn’t truly felt like summer. Don’t get me wrong. I certainly sweated through the recent record-breaking heat and the consequent rolling blackouts. Rather, I’m referring to the lack of all the usual summer activities that make summer feel like summer to me. I miss hitting the beach with my parents. Unplugging and connecting with nature. How about those mouth-watering dishes at Centenary’s picnic? Getting some watermelon paletas to cool me down. Attending a summer concert at Hollywood Bowl. Going to the movies to watch a blockbuster. Watching the church get ready for the Nisei Week activities… I got none on this list accomplished this summer. Thanks to the worst year of our lives (probably), our summer was quite unpleasant, to say the least.

This... is surely the year of catastrophes: COVID-19 pandemic, the eruption of social unrest due to systemic racism and police brutality, Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s tragic death, devastating wildfires and hurricanes, massive explosions in Lebanon, national and global economic emergency, etc. I can’t even count how many times my social media feeds have been flooded with frequent posts of people lamenting that the year has been robbed from them and that humanity needs a reset button to restart 2020. I concur that we need that reset button.

As I think about what else awaits us during the rest of 2020, the following scripture comes to my mind: “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Many of you have expressed to me that this is one of your favorite Bible verses. I join in that chorus since this is one of my “go-to” verses as well, especially when I need re-centering and refocusing. How many of you have recited this scripture during a crisis so that you can slow down and quiet yourself before God to hear what God has to say? I have done exactly that numerous times when my mind won’t switch off.

However, did you know that there’s a deeper meaning to this Bible verse than it just being a relaxing meditation practice? There’s more to it than the ‘let go and let God’ understanding.

Chapter 46 from the book of Psalms is about WAR. In verse 10, God is entering the battlefield and crying out to the nations, that is God’s enemies, to “BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD!” I love the translation from the Holman Christian Standard Bible: “Stop your fighting—and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” This means the verse we love so much is actually about God’s powerful voice bringing all the nations into submission.

Why is this understanding important? It is a good reminder to us who the ruler of all creation is. This ruler, so powerful and mighty, can create life, make mountains tremble and oceans roar, and defeat the enemy, with a simple speech. All nations and creatures bow before him. No matter how great the enemy is, it has no chance before God. God WILL BE VICTORIOUS. In all, God is our refuge and strength, and people of God are always protected no matter what situation they may be living in on earth.

It grieves me that our environment will continue to force us to navigate the unexpected as the autumn approaches. We won’t get to have worship in-person at church by Labor Day as we had initially hoped in March. Schools have already started and they look immensely different and challenging with distance learning and hybrid models. (Kudos to all your teachers, students, and parents who have to adapt to the new models of teaching/learning!) Our rhythm of life can’t resume with the coronavirus still lurking around the corner. Who knows how long it will be before all these crises pass?

Nevertheless, in the face of unrest and chaos, we are called to put our trust in God, who is more than capable of handling situations on God’s own. Remember God’s power and might. God does not need our help but it is we who need God. How our spirits and lives will be renewed when we entrust our anxieties, stress, and cares to him.

I am immensely thankful to all of you who have persevered thus far. You are resilient, strong, and determined. I pray for God’s steadfast protection and guidance for you as you stand strong and faithful amid this calamitous year.


Rev. Sunyoung Lee

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