“The Gift of God”

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)


A few days ago, I got sick. I wasn’t able to go to the church and work my regular office hours because my stomach was upset. I usually get up early and read some bible verses, watch the news, and pray for the day before going to the church. But on that day, while I was reading a bible verse, I had a headache and didn’t feel good. I took a painkiller. But, it made my stomach more upset. I felt nauseous with a severe headache. I decided not to go to the church that day and stay home and rest. I sent the church leaders at Grantsburg a text that I wouldn’t be going to church. And, I rested the entire day. It was the first time I couldn’t keep my regular schedule due to illness since I came to Upper St. Croix parish. During the COVID-19 pandemic, even though I was busier than ever, I never got sick. I was happy that we could see one another in person. So, what happened to me?

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced the new paradigm of participating in the church through new technologies such as Zoom live services, Facebook live services, YouTube services, and Drive-In services. These are the methods that we tried to stay connected and to care for one another because we couldn’t gather in one place and couldn’t gather in person due to COVID-19.  We are grateful for these new technologies that kept us connected, even during challenging times. Uncertain of the future, we kept praying and kept in touch with one another through these new technologies.

Finally, we are overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and reopening our church. And now, we gather together again. However, perhaps, we are coming back with a wounded body and mind. I mean that we may be wounded spiritually, emotionally, and physically in many ways because of the pandemic. Some of us lost beloved ones; some of us lost jobs, shelters, friends, and we might lose some of our church family members as some of them may not come back to the church. We also feel the effects of long-term isolation; some of us suffered from depression, anxiety, addiction, sadness, loneliness, or low self-esteem. We are coming back to the church, but I would like to check if we are really okay. “Are you really okay?”

When I first learned English, I was taught to memorize many sentences for English conversation. For example, when we meet people, we may greet each other by saying: “Hi. How are you?”  Then, in reply saying, “I’m fine, and you?” Because we just memorized the sentences, we don’t know the other person’s answers for the greeting, “How are you?” There’s a humorous saying; even though I fell, got wounded and was bleeding, I might still answer, “I’m fine, and you?” I would suggest you check with yourself to see if you really are fine and check with your loved ones to see if they really are fine as well.

When we reopened the church, we greeted each other with smiling faces, “How have you been?” Some said, “I’ve been fine. See, I’m here.” Due to the pandemic it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. At least we know those who showed up at church are okay. We are happy to see one another in person. We are so glad that we could gather together in one place. Perhaps, it is time to check on one another with the caring love of God to see if they are fine, especially those who are not able to come to church yet.

We are Christians which means Christ’s followers. The Apostle Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). As God’s gift, we are saved in faith by grace. No one can boast about whether we are Christians, but we have to think of God’s gift, faith. The reason God gave us the gift of God, salvation in faith, is for good works. We are saved by grace, not by our own work. Those who received a gift cannot judge others who don’t. When we receive a gift, we are happy and want to share the joy. Like this, our gift of God has the purpose of sharing joy with others.

In reopening the church, let us think about what the “good works” are.  Paul says, “For through him [Jesus] both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father [God]” (Ephesians 2:18). “Both of us” means Christians who are in different opinions (Ephesians 2:11-13). It is time to embrace one another in Jesus Christ. It is time to care for the wounds of one another. Even though the wounds are not visible, most of us are wounded for many reasons, such as hearing different opinions in faith, disappointing others, leaving members, etc. Let us respect different voices. Let us embrace one another and walk together toward one Spirit to God. Life is short, but we have many things to do in Jesus Christ. Praise God rather than blame others. That’s the way we use the gift of God well. Blessings! Pastor Jenny