Bishop Park's Advent Letter

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November 30, 2016

"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility... Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."
(Ephesians 2:14, 19-20)

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.... And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in God, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
(Romans 15:7, 12 & 13)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World.

Each Advent Season is different and special, because its context is ever changing. However, it is always a God-given opportunity to celebrate its promise and embrace its gift: a future filled with hope.

The hope of Advent is not only an ardent aspiration for, but also an unwavering faith in, a promised future that is surely coming. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) Hope is alive because of confident faith. Faith and hope go together.

To us, the people of faith, hope is never confused with an empty promise or wishful thinking. Our hope has a firm foundation: Jesus the Christ. Advent is all about the Christ who was promised to come, has come, and will come again.

Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, because he is the herald of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. His birth, life, death, and resurrection are God's unequivocal affirmation of the vision of the future filled with hope that Jesus lived for, died for, and was raised for. It is the vision of the beloved community embodied by Jesus, where love rules supreme, righteousness is prevalent, and peace with justice prevails. Advent is about the living hope of the Beloved Community of Christ to which our ultimate loyalty belongs.

As a nation and as a church, we recognize a heightened presence of fissures and an acute sense of division. However, let's be reminded that, no matter where we may come from, "We are one out of many." That's our destiny as a nation and the destination as God's people. We are "no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." Jesus Christ invites and receives all to the Kingdom of God, the Beloved Community of Christ, where each and every one is accepted and affirmed as God's beloved child of sacred worth. "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you." That's the mandate from the Great Commandment ("Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34) and the Great Commission ("Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations." Matthew 28:19).

Fred Kaan, in 1974, penned the words to the hymn, "Help Us Accept Each Other." Let me offer them for your personal reflection and as a prayer for our life and witness together as we follow the vision of the Beloved Community of Christ.

"Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to believe, we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O Lord, our lessons, as in our daily life we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith. Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some, to love them as we find them, or as they may become.

Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved in living situations to do the truth in love; to practice your acceptance, until we know by heart the table of forgiveness and laughter's healing art.

Lord, for today's encounters with all who are in need, who hunger for acceptance, for righteousness and bread, we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on; renew us with your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!"
(The hymn, Help Us Accept Each Other, the United Methodist Hymnal #560.)

Yes, Lord, we pray this prayer in your name for the good of the church, the nation and the world - renew us with Your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!

May God's rich blessings of Advent be with you, your loved ones, our nation and the world.

With You in Christ's Ministry, 

Jeremiah J. Park


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