“Fill My House”
Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” (Luke 14:23-24)
Is it the fourth year since my appointed to the Upper St. Croix Parish! Everyone feels that time flies so fast. Especially for me, as I feel like I lost some years due to the Pandemic. However, I don’t mean to imply that we didn’t accomplish anything while the Pandemic hit around the world. We tried to gather through Zoom and outdoor services and gatherings. We didn’t submit to the Pandemic, but we came through it. We no longer feel afraid of the Pandemic, even though it is still around us, because we have learned how to live and worship in a new normal era.
Yes, we live in the new normal era, in which we may worship at home through media resources and have meetings via Zoom. The COVID 19 Pandemic becomes a big excuse for everyone everywhere. But, I wonder if it also can be excused by God. We should return to where God calls us because we have learned how to safely function in our everyday life in the pandemic era. Where do you think your place is?
As you may guess, God calls us to the church. So, we should gather together at the church. That’s why we are Christians. If you believe you are a Christian, your place should be at the church. A long time ago, God called Abraham and Moses. God called His people through them. God called his people from Egypt to the Promised Land. They gathered together, worshiping God, and they came throughout the wilderness toward the Promised Land. All the people couldn’t reach the Promised Land, only a few of them got there. It is a very famous story that you may know, and your children or grandchild know. However, remember, the Biblical story is not only a story, but also the living word of God, as God is the Living God. Please listen to God in the new year. I hope that your resolution for the New Year is that you will come back to the church with your family.
I want to share my prayers and resolution for the next year: my new year’s resolution and the ministerial theme is to “fill God’s House with his people.” You may remember I spent my vacation at the wilderness retreat center. I prayed to God for our parish. I felt God really wants our parish’s revitalization. While I prayed to God, some scripture verses came to my mind: “Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner” (Luke 14:23-24). After the Pandemic, several of us were disappointed because many people haven’t come back yet, and we saw many empty pews in the church. I wonder if we have indeed compelled people to come back to the church. Even if we did, they haven’t come, and we may now find others to fill our church. I want to share the story of Luke 14:15-24: The master prepares the party and invites the people. But they didn’t come to the party because they had various reasons not to come, like as going to the market, working in the field, and just getting married. They seem reasonable excuses. However, the master became angry and asked his servant to call anybody to fill his house, saying, “Go out into the roads and lanes and compel people to come in so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” Our duty is to call the people to fill the church. In the new year, I hope that we compel people to come to the church; if they don’t come, we can invite others. There might be some of our neighbors who we never invited to the church for some reason. It is time to ask them to come to the church.
Some people might have been disappointed when I was appointed to this parish because I am a Kore-an, female, and a new pastor in Wisconsin. You may not feel comfortable inviting people because your pastor is a new female foreigner. However, trust in God. God used to call the weak, the foolish, and the powerless, as he did when he had David fighting with Goliath, Samuel for awakening the priest Eli, the blind Samson for destroying the gentile people, and Jesus’ twelve disciples, who were the poor and uneducated people, for spreading the good news. The Apostle Paul says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). My belief about God is that if God chose a great and powerful minister for our parish, and then our parish begins to revive again, many of you may believe that the great minister is responsible and not God. So, don’t trust in me, but trust in God, who sent me to you. God can make things happen even with a staff or a stone. I learned that our churches (three churches of our parish) are exceptional for many of you because many of you grew up and have experienced the church’s revival. This parish is also very special to me because God sent me here as the first place I would serve after my graduation from the seminary even though I was about to return to my country. I am excited to see how God works through me. Let us go together toward God’s Promised Land. You may see how God works through your prayers if you stay at church.