June 21, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“It is a Time to Lift Up”
You may hear that “there is a season and a time for everything.” Ecclesiastes says, “For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” including “a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to plant, and a time to pluck up…a time to weep, and a time to laugh… a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” I think that these are all our lives. Sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we weep. Sometimes we mourn, and sometimes we dance. That goes on our entire life.
What about now for you? We laugh now, but we still have many issues in our lives, which we cannot handle, such as issues with family, children, medical, financial, addiction, illness and many more. It is not enough. Also, we are experiencing Pandemic COVID 19, unjust violence, and protestant movements. The Pandemic makes the situation more stressful. The situation is getting worse and worse every day. We do not know yet when it will be done.
However, we should not sit down and pass the blame for our current situations. It is a time to lift up our souls and bodies to God. It is a time to get up from our darkness. We have to keep social distancing around each other, but we must not keep any distance from God because Jesus Christ, our Lord, destroyed all the clogged walls between God and us.
It is a time to pray. It is a time to lift up your children and your family members if they are in a dark place such as addiction, depression, wanderings, or any other issues.
In the Scripture reading for today, God came to Hagar, who is crying for her son Ishmael in the wilderness. God says to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.” Yes, God knows everything. God knows where you are. God knows where your family members are. God knows where your children are.
God says to Hagar, “Come, LIFT UP the boy and hold him FAST with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Please listen to God’s voice to you, “come, lift up your family members and hold them FAST with your hand.” In this time, especially, I hope that fathers and mothers listen to God’s voice, “lift up your child and hold him/her fast with your hand.”
Today is father’s day. I want to share with you my father’s story. When I was a child, I thought that my father was a weak, drunken, and indecisive man. I felt that he did not help my mother’s suffering from her in-laws: I thought that he did not support his children’s education. And, I saw him drunk most days.
I grew up in a very patriarchal and Confucian family. When I was 12, I went to high school. However, my grandfather did not allow me to receive an education because I was a girl. One day, I heard my parents talking about me in the next room. They talked about how they could support me. Finally, they decided that they would leave my grandfather’s house and live by themselves. It was the first time that my parents went against my grandfather. After that, my family had difficult times without any financial support from my grandfather. However, my mother began to attend a Methodist church freely, and my father did not drink and worked hard for his children. He did not want to raise his children to be weak like him under the patriarchal system. We lived in one bedroom for three years with seven family members due to financial issues. I realized that parents could do everything for their children.
Later, our family members were converted to Christianity by my mother. After I went to seminary, my father respected me as a minister and a Christian leader. After my grandfather passed away, my father asked me to lead all house affairs. My younger sister used to say to my father, “why do you discriminate among our siblings?” I have two sisters and two brothers. I am not the oldest. I have an older sister, an older brother, a younger sister, and a younger brother. My two sisters studied in seminary also. But, among them, my father has chosen me as the leader of the house affairs. And then, my father answered her, “if you hurt any of your ten fingers, you feel the same pain in every single finger. Like that, I love you all the same.”
Much later, my parents passed away, and my younger sister had three children. She said to me, one day, “sister, you know what, my father lied to me, if I hurt my ten fingers, I know that I have one most painful finger among ten, which is her youngest son, who has issues with ADHD. She said that he is her most painful finger. I knew that I was the most painful finger to my parents.
When I was born, I was not welcomed by my grandparents because I was another girl. My grandfather turned the heat off in my mother’s delivery room because I was another girl. Because of that, I am weak and often sick. In addition, my grandfather did not allow me to receive an education because I was a girl. So, they made a hard decision to move out of my grandfather’s house. Even though they could not get any financial support from my grandfather, they wanted to support me in receiving an education. My father looked like a weak and indecisive man, but he knew that it is a time to lift up his child at that moment.
Do you have a most painful finger? Do you have any heartbroken child or family members? It is a time to lift up them. God hears your voice. God hears their crying. God said, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him FAST with your hand. I will make a nation of him” (21:18).
Please do remember that God keeps his promises. God said to Sarah to have a son even though she is too old to bear a child. But, God did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore a son at her old age. His son’s name is Isaac, which means “laughter.” Sarah had a laugh when she heard that she would have a son at her old age. And now, she has a good laugh for having a son. She experienced that there is nothing too hard for the Lord. However, as we do so, there is a time to suffer, and there is a time to laugh for Sarah.
Sarah saw that Ishmael, son of her servant Hagar, was playing with her son Isaac. And she said to Abraham, “cast out this slave woman with her son.” Think about Abraham. As a father, how much pain he feels! For Abraham, Ishmael is also his son. However, surprisingly, God said to him, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and Hagar. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she said to you. I will make a nation of him because he is your son also” (21:12). Finally, Abraham sends out Hagar and his son Ishmael to the wilderness. What do Hagar and Ishmael think of Abraham? What does Ishmael think of his father? He might think of his father as a weak and indecisive man. However, Abraham believed in God’s promise, that God will protect them and guide them in the wilderness. Yes, that’s a father. Sometimes we do not understand a father’s decision for their children. There is a time to send out, and there is a time to lift up. If a father believes in God, he knows that it is a time to lift up his child.
Abraham sent out Hagar and Ishmael with bread and a skin of water to the wilderness. When the water in the skin were gone, Hagar said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And she lifted up her voice and wept. She knew that it is a time to pray for her son. And, God heard her and said, “Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast.” If you have a heartbroken child or family member, please lift up your voice to God and lift them fast from their dark place. There is nothing too hard for God. It is a time to lift up your weakness to God. It is a time to lift up your heartbroken child and family member to God. God hears you and protects them. God is the Healer. God is the Protector. God is the Savior. God never goes a deaf ear to our prayers.
Thanks be to God. Amen.