Tuesday, February 21, 2017

He knows me, let’s know JESUS

Kim BeomHeon (Tiger), an ESR exchange student from Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology in South Korea, delivered the following message during Joint Seminary Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion on Friday, February 17, 2017: 

Leviticus 19:18
Psalm 23:1~6
Romans 3:9~18

I heartily welcome and bless you today in the name of the Lord.

We have gathered here to believe in something.
The object of our faith may be God alone,
it may be Jesus Christ, or it could be another object of worship.

Why do we have faith, and why do we worship?
Faith is the primary thing that saves us from sin.

The forms of salvation and methods of salvation that world religions claim are diverse.
The concept of sin we must know for salvation is very diverse.
Especially, the concept of sin today is very diverse.

In these circumstances today, Christianity asks this serious question.
What is sin?
There can be various discussions about sin, but I think that sin is not knowing oneself.

"Do you know exactly who you are?"

In fact, we do not know much about ourselves.
Is there anyone who knows for sure where in the flow of history that we have come, and where we will go?

When one falls in front of the love and forgiveness of God,
When all our sins are revealed,
We experience existence as sinners.

There is nothing as foolish as claiming to know God by experiencing His grace for one moment, this is because our belief is not based on miracles, but in the Word.

It is foolish to claim to believe unconditionally because it is the truth,
which is why we are here today to learn the Word, to know how to believe.
It is not an exaggeration to say that ESR and Bethany seminaries exist to find the truth.

We sometimes find truths throughout our lives,
We are sometimes filled with curiosity and explore what sin is about.
I would like to propose that we look inside together.
Try to think.
Think about your inner order.

After all, we can not bring about perfect love with our own strength,
And we have no choice but to confess that we can not completely forgive with only our own strength.
We can not solve our own problem of sin.
We have no choice but to obtain grace from other beings.

I was full of hypocrisy. After believing in Jesus, I am still hypocritical.
But the difference between the old me and myself today is that I can confess that I am completely hypocritical at some point.

I pretend to be someone who I am not.
I fool even myself.

I want you to stand in evidence of the love of the cross.
The cross is like a mirror,
The cross exposes my ugliness,
The cross shows my sin completely.

Look at Leviticus, the document of Judaism and the Old Testament of Christianity.
Leviticus 19 verse 18 penetrates the entire Bible.

'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.‘

Forgive and love,
How perfect is this human life portrayed here!

The direction of our life is the word of forgiveness and love of that in Leviticus.
I do not wish to preach the word with dazzling words and complex doctrine, but I want to tell you how God treats us as sinners.

We can see how miraculous the truth of Romans and Psalms 23 is.
We see the intersection of Romans and the Psalms.
And I see how sinful man is full of God 's grace.
I am a sinful man but God pours out his grace upon me.

I will read the Romans and the Psalms in order.
Romans chapter 3 verse 10 to 18
Psalms chapter 23 verse 1 to 6.

Listen carefully!

Romans accuses humans.(v10~11)
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

Psalms love humans. (v1)
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Romans criticizes humans. (v12)
All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Nevertheless, Psalms love human beings. (v. 2).
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

Romans points out strongly (v. 13)
"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips."

Psalm loves humans even more. (v3)
He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Romans reveals the depths of sin (vv. 14-15).
"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood;

Nevertheless, the Psalms forgive and love (v.4).
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Romans thoroughly exposes the sins of mankind (vv. 16-17).
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know."

Nevertheless, the Psalms are forgiving. (v. 5).
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Romans gives the final revelation (v.18).
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Nevertheless, the Psalms show love to overcome the death of the cross (v. 6).

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The existence as a sinner fights with us every day to be righteous.

However with our spiritual conscience, we have to admit that we ourselves can only lose in the fight.

We need to know Jesus, We need to strive to know Jesus.

He wants to know us, and show us.

To know is to act with love,
To know is to pray silently
To know is to seek grace.
To know is to admit that we do not know about so many things.

We need to know love in His Word. We need to know forgiveness.

We are not alone, look around you, and see your friends, your peers.
God loves dirty people.

Dirty people can not love anyone with God.
Sinful people have hope to love.

Let us know, and strive to know.
We strive to love our neighbor with the strength of Christ.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

“It is Well with My Soul”: A Journey of Grief and Faith

In this powerful reflection ESR MDiv student Anne M. Hutchinson shares about the loss of her son. 

Everything about that phone call felt wrong, even before I answered. It had started as an ordinary evening in April. I was in an empty classroom preparing for an English as a Second Language class that I was subbing for, when my phone rang, with an unknown number showing up on the caller ID. It was my son’s stepmother, and she quickly put my son’s father on. He said starkly, without any preliminaries, “Your son is dead.” My son? Not our son? When had he become exclusively “my” son? Almost mechanically, I asked the requisite questions: how did it happen, when would the funeral be. My ex said he had just come from the coroner’s office and was too upset to talk any more. My son had taken his own life at the age of 27.
Trying to take it in, I called my sister and a close friend to let them know. It was too late to cancel class. The students would be arriving within the half hour. Somehow, through the shock, I finished my preparations and greeted the students as they arrived. The subject was spring, which would begin in a few days. In a numb state, I put on my bravest face and got through the session. I invited the students to generate English words about spring: flowers, seeds being planted, rain, frogs—of all things. From the words, they created sentences to practice vocabulary and verb forms. They worked in their textbooks in small groups, as usual. Finally, time was up and I sent them home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New student introduction: Keelin Anderson

We have a number of new students joining us for our spring semester during the 2016-17 academic year. We're excited to introduce to you one of these - Keelin Anderson, who is an MDiv Access student from Portland, Oregon. She shares some thoughts on coming to ESR below:

Hello to the ESR community! My name is Keelin Anderson and I live in the paradise that is Portland, OR. Everything you have heard about Portlandia is true. Not only can I have hot soup and a new mattress delivered by bike to my home, I can also have my Christmas tree delivered petroleum free (well, at least the last mile of delivery). It snowed an inch yesterday which, though rare, completely shuts down the town. Also, I am laid up with a sore knee. So, I have all of the perfect excuses to lounge on the couch and write this hello…

I come to ESR with the hope that I will be able to work at my edge more fully academically and spiritually. My route here has been convoluted (though I am sure to God’s eye it looks strait as rain). I was raised without religion. I had no interest in God until my late twenties. At that time I took up meditation to manage symptoms left over from an abusive childhood. Meditation broke me open to a whole new worldview. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Transgender Day of Remembrance

ESR MDiv student Anthony Kirk delivered the following message during Joint Bethany/ESR Worship on November 18, 2016:

Being transgender in America is a dangerous, lonely, and isolating existence. We are denied safe spaces. We are denied equal treatment and protections under the law. We are not given adequate medical treatment. We are even denied a place to use the bathroom.
          We have been butchered at the hands of politicians, congregations, medical professionals, counselors, by gay and lesbian people, our families… Our lives have been dismissed as not real. That we are simply mentally disturbed. We can have the “dysphoria” beaten out of us, verbally, emotionally, physically. We are left for dead. We are drowning in pain and sorrow. We are murdered at alarming rates. 41% of us attempt suicide.
          2016 has been a painful reminder to me and to my community at just how vulnerable we are at the hands of our society. This year boasts the highest rate of transgender murders—mostly transwomen of color—and the year is not yet over. My siblings of God are calling suicide hotlines more than previously reported. After the election last week the levels skyrocketed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ESR student Chris Duff: First reflections on studying in South Korea

ESR MDiv student Chris Duff is spending Fall Semester abroad - studying in Seoul, South Korea thanks to an exchange program partnership between ESR and Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology. In the spring, Chris will return to Richmond along with two students who will join us at ESR from Hanshin. Below are some of Chris's initial reflections on his time there:

(Chris, 3rd from left, with fellow classmates)

I’ve been here in South Korea for the past two and a half months attending the Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology as a part of a student exchange. The life of a student here in Korea is really no different than it is in the United States: lots of paper writing, replacing blood in your veins with coffee, and an unhealthy lack of sleep. However, an added benefit is being able to witness a unique blending of culture and religion that we often don’t get to see in the west.

Korea is a country with a long history and diverse religious landscape. Shamanism was for the longest time the dominant religion in the country, and over the course of time Buddhism, Confucianism, and, in the past century, Christianity have made their marks on the culture and society of the country. Around 30% of Koreans are Christian, a little less than 25% are Buddhist, and the remaining are generally non-religious with small groups of other religions mixed in here and there.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Why Not Preach Philemon?

ESR's Stephen Angell delivered the following message during worship on September 6, 2016:

Although Paul’s epistle to Philemon is one of the Scriptural texts suggested by the Revised Common Lectionary for this week, I have never heard a sermon given on this text. This provoked me to think about what I, or the broader Christian church, might be missing by not hearing more sermons on Philemon.
Charles Colcock Jones [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
The evangelical Presbyterian Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863) was, according to American National Biography Online, “a wealthy planter … best known during his lifetime as a tireless worker for the evangelization of African-American slaves. … Hundreds [of slaves] joined one of his churches [in Liberty County, near the Georgia sea coast.] … Though he was frequently sought out for advice and counsel, slaves never forgot that Jones was a slaveholder and their response was always filtered through that reality.”
Once, possibly in the 1830s or 1840s, Jones chose the text of Philemon for his open air church service for slaves. This choice of text did not inspire a favorable response from his audience. According to Jones (as recorded in his diary), “When I insisted on fidelity and obedience as Christian virtues in servants and, upon the authority of Paul, condemned the practice of running away, one half of my audience deliberately rose up and walked off with themselves, and those who remained looked anything but satisfied, either with the preacher or his doctrine. After dismission, there was no small stir among them; some solemnly declared that there was no such Epistle in the Bible; others, that they did not care if they ever heard me preach again.”
(That’s questionable exegesis – Paul uses the word “obedience” once in this epistle, in verse 21, and it is applied to Philemon. Paul is hoping for Philemon’s obedience. He mentions nothing about Onesimus’ obedience.)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

North Carolina Yearly Meeting: An ESR Visitor’s Standpoint

ESR's Steve Angell attended this summer's annual sessions of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), and shares his reflection on the gathering:

In separate conversations, two F(f)riends that I have known for a long time, Brent McKinney and Billy Britt, greeted me warmly and welcomed me back to North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting), meeting at Caraway Conference Center in Sophia, North Carolina this month (Eighth Month, 2016). I was delighted to receive their welcome. But, in all honesty, I had to admit that they couldn’t welcome me “back,” because I was attending North Carolina Yearly Meeting for the first time! Both Brent and Billy were astonished. Hadn’t they each been in many meetings with me over the years? I agreed that it was so, but this was still my first time visiting with them in North Carolina. So, with gratitude for the wonderful hospitality of Brent, Billy and many others, and even though I bring something of a practiced Friend’s eye to the occasion, these are still the reflections of a newcomer to NCYM (FUM).