Text: John 14: 8-14
I was at a usual drug store except that it was early in the morning. A few customers including me were waiting outside for the door to be open. As soon as it was unlocked, we were rushing into the store. The inside was somewhat disorganized – there were a few empty shelves here and there and a couple of employees were busy organizing things – and the floor was still wet. After grabbing what I needed, I went to the front desk to pay. There was one casher who was preoccupied with a paperwork. She was so busy doing things with a calculator that she didn’t bother raising her head to see me. I waited a bit and cleared my throat, and she burst out saying “oh, nothing is working out for me.” I am not the kind of person who enjoys interacting with a cashier. A usual greeting is just enough for me. But this time I approached differently. I listened, looked, and showed empathy. I said, “Yes. That happens sometimes.” “It sure does” she responded right away. I was beginning to like my interaction with her. I said, “I hope you will be able to resolve the problem soon.” “Thank you.” She expressed her appreciation with a smile. For a very brief moment we were looking at each other. A usual encounter turned into a magical moment that I treasured throughout the day and more.
Some people might say that what I experienced in that particular store on that particular morning was nothing but usual and mundane. But for me that was a small miracle. In a world where a human interaction is getting rare, a miracle is where a true connection is made however momentarily. We don’t need to travel far away to find a new meaning of life or rely on electric devices to feel connected. Life is already full of miracles. We just need to be open and welcome them anywhere and anytime.
I wonder if that’s what Jesus meant when he said, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” How can ordinary people like you and me can accept those words? We have more than enough issues or situations that would keep us restless when we are supposed to relax. We hear more cries than laugher from every corner of the world. There is hurting in every family, sorrow in every town, and panic in every nation. Sometimes life is too painful to celebrate. Our peaceful moment can be interrupted by unexpected things at any moment. So how is it possible to do greater works when all we want is just peace of mind?
I take those improbable words not literally but metaphorically. For me, that’s a way to remind us of who we really are, where we came from and where we are going. Jesus is basically saying to us, ‘do not forget that you are always connected with God and with one another.’ Such unity is what he demonstrates throughout his life and ministry, and what he wants us to be mindful of.
Traditionally the teachings of the church focused more on separation than oneness. We are ultimately sinners who are in need of redemption. God figured this out by sending a chosen one who made the bridge between people and between people and God. What this particular dogma implies is the unavoidable division between the creator and the creation. An equally problematic issue is the individualistic worldview; we are here before God only as individuals not as a connected whole. This particular doctrine has problems. It came from the traditionally dominant group whose agendas usually produce more oppression than liberation. It doesn’t reflect our authentic experiences of unity. There has always been a tension between the church who wants to maintain its power and those who want to explore new expressions of faith.
I came to Canada hoping to find new ways of expressing my faith. Churches in Korea were influenced by a mega church model in the US which is based on consumerism and capitalism. The pressure of competition with other churches or among colleagues in ministry was so huge that it blocked the freedom of searching for and expressing of authentic faith. I was struggling with the gap between what I truly believed and what I was forced to practice. So it was a life-saving experience when I saw how theology and practice would go together in the United Church. A short liturgy led by a minister from Calgary and Linnea Good was powerful enough to convince me that I found what I was looking for. He invited people at the retreat to look into the direction where the sun was, and to receive its energy, the symbol of God’s unconditional love. He then guided us to soak in the love so it could enter into every cell of our bodies. Then we were invited to share the blessing with those around us. I saw a glimpse of not only how our practice could reflect our faith, but also how our practice could expand our understanding of God and the world.
I am very proud of the theology of the United Church. Its openness is deeply rooted in the radical love of God we see in the life of Jesus – the love that is so powerful that it dissolves all the existing boundaries, the grace that is so amazing that it can transform lives and communities. I am also proud of how its people have made a difference in Canada and many parts of the world. But there is one thing we are lacking or at least we don’t feel confident enough. That is a spiritual practice. Typical united church people are usually hardworking people. They like to get involved in various fundraising events, love to reach out to the community, don’t mind baking or cooking, and rarely miss Sunday worship. But they shy away from speaking about their faith not to mention their spiritual practice. Many united church congregations are experiencing the lack of resources, the burden of carrying old structure – the building, polity, governance and various committees – while feeling tired due to overworking. I worry that the structure has become bigger than the people in it that it takes up our energies and time.
We desperately need a new and different way of doing the church not based on a culture of competition or a hardworking culture but based on our relationship with God, one another and the world. Healing Pathway, although it may not be for everyone – can provide space to explore new ways of expressing our faith, and therefore expanding our understanding of God and the world. It promotes a healthy and sustainable community where no one is left alone, where everyone feels supported and nurtured by sharing the abundance of God’s love. Who knows? We may experience daily miracles because God who dwells in us will connect us, heal us, and create with us. I am going to show you a video – introduction to Healing Pathway.