A Message from Bill Wong, Call Process Assistant
by Kathye Hamm
Grace and peace to you from God,
who meets us as our loving Creator,
as Jesus Christ our crucified and risen Savior,
and as Holy Spirit who gathers and inspires us for mission and ministry. Amen.
This past Sunday we celebrated the Day of Pentecost, when we recalled the work of the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit fired up the apostles and the early church to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people in the world around them through word and action. As I think about the Holy Spirit, I am reminded that this is a good time to read Martin Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed in his Small Catechism. This is also an opportune time for us to recall and reflect on the ways each of us has experienced the Holy Spirit during our faith journey with Jesus Christ.
As I recall my faith journey, I realize that the Holy Spirit was bringing me to faith and a relationship with Jesus at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Monterey Park, CA, when they began a Chinese ministry. I met folks who reached out to me by inviting me to youth activities, sharing the story of Jesus, developing a relationship with me, and incarnating Jesus through their words and actions. Simultaneously, the folks at St. Paul’s, both Chinese and White, weren’t perfect and, at times, relationships went sideways. Unfortunately, the Chinese ministry eventually spun off on its own to become Faith Lutheran Church. However, whatever the shortcomings of this Chinese ministry start, in hindsight, I can see the Holy Spirit’s handiwork. St. Paul’s folks caught a glimpse of a vision for this new ministry and were willing to accept the challenge. The white members were willing to enter unknown territory and reached out across a cultural divide. Chinese folks came to faith and joined either Faith or St. Paul’s. The Holy Spirit gathered people and empowered saints and sinners to incarnate Jesus.
As I witness and reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit, I am impressed by the power of the Spirit to move people, like you and me, to minister with and among the people around them, to cross barriers, to rise above divisions, to bring people together, to envision a new creation, to reach out and form community, to be catalysts for reconciliation, to speak out against sin and injustices, to love their neighbors, and to realize that the Spirit provides the power for ministry that can transform people and community.
Through the Holy Spirit, the adventure we call church can become real. Word and Sacrament become expressions of Jesus’ presence and grace. I have seen congregations sponsor refugees, offer English-as-second-language classes, learn another language, feed hungry folks, build houses, offer health care, give away their church building to a developing congregation, shelter people, rise up together to face a crisis, organize to offer needed services, come together to start a new ministry, tutor students, advocate for legislation, and the list goes on of what the Holy Spirit can do to empower congregations to incarnate Jesus Christ.
Pentecost Day is a proclamation of the power of the Holy Spirit, working through us, who are Jesus’ disciples, to break through barriers, rise above divisions, reach out and gather people to form multicultural communities, to work against racism, to love LGBTQ persons, to reach out to marginalized folks, to care for people who are poor, and to be the body of Christ is the world. The Holy Spirit pushes and empowers us to make a difference in the world. Because of the Holy Spirit, we have received the fire to be the face of Jesus for the people around us and incarnate the good news. Through the Holy Spirit, we can say, “God’s work. Our hands.”
As a final thought, I share with you these words from the Iona Abbey Worship Book.
O Christ, you are within each of us.
It is not just the interior of these walls; it is our own inner being that you have renewed.
We are your temple not made with hands.
We are your body.
If every wall should crumble, and every church decay,
Still…we are your habitation.
Nearer are you than breathing, closer than hands and feet.
Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery,
look out with compassion on a broken world.
Yet we bless you for this place, for your directing of us,
your redeeming of us, your indwelling in our hearts.
And now, take us outside, O Christ,
outside the holiness, out to where soldiers curse and nations clash,
out into the crossroads of the world.
And by so doing shall this building continue to be justified.
All this we ask for your name’s sake.
With confidence and hope in the living Jesus Christ,
Pastor Bill Wong
Call Process Assistant
June 15, 2021
June 08, 2021