13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
14 My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and are able to teach each other. 15 But I’ve written to you in a sort of daring way, partly to remind you of what you already know. I’m writing to you in this way because of the grace that was given to me by God. 16 It helps me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. I’m working as a priest of God’s gospel so that the offering of the Gentiles can be acceptable and made holy by the Holy Spirit. 17 So in Christ Jesus I brag about things that have to do with God. 18 I don’t dare speak about anything except what Christ has done through me to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles. He did it by what I’ve said and what I’ve done, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, and by the power of God’s Spirit. So I’ve completed the circuit of preaching Christ’s gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum.
At the end of his longest letter, the apostle Paul offered a clear model of the truth that God calls us, as followers of Christ, to work diligently and tirelessly for God’s kingdom. And yet, in just these six summary verses, we find three specific references to the work of the Holy Spirit, to whom Paul gave the credit for the many amazing things he had achieved in spreading Christ’s message throughout much of the Roman Empire. “Competition for honor characterized ancient urban Mediterranean society….Here Paul boasts not in himself but in Christ’s work through him.” * In verse 18, he linked the two ideas in the remarkable phrase, “He did it by what I’ve said and what I’ve done.” When God wants anything done, God almost always sends people to do it—yet God never sends the people alone. They—we—are always to work “by the power of God’s Spirit.”
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O God, fill me today and every day with all joy and peace in faith so that I overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 256481-256482). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 203. *** Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, Romans Part Two: Chapters 6-16 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 120). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Most people who decide to study abroad have a clear vision and purpose for their future. Leaving one’s kin and country is such a big deal and there has to be a good enough reason to take that journey. I, however, did not have a describable future ahead of me when I took the flight from South Korea to New Jersey. Instead, it was a simple yet strong inner voice saying, “Go forth.” I followed the call and completed two master’s degrees in theology.
Yet afterwards, I did not know how to make sense of my life. It was when I was doing internship in Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy program) that I opened myself up in a new way. Growing up in South Korea, pastor was not on my wish list of jobs. Especially pastoral authority was not something I could think of myself having. I grew up in a patriarchal society where the virtue of women was to be obedient and quiet. Therefore, I struggled and asked myself, “Who am I to visit these people? What authority do I have?”
Contrary to my self-doubt, when I met with patients in hospital rooms, they would pour out their life stories of faith and doubt, hope and despair and embrace my pastoral care. Why? It was because I was holding a sacred place, representing the God who listens. Without their life problems fixed or answered, through our time together, they somehow felt God’s presence in the hospital room. For the first time, I was able to embrace myself as a servant of God with a different kind of pastoral authority. I was none of those external authority images--male, white, high social status. Yet I found myself anew as a servant of God. I came to see that it is the Holy Spirit, God’s work in me, that overflows, not the external human conditions. This gave me the audacity to say yes to ordained ministry.
Now, here I am at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. I could doubt myself--I don’t speak good enough English compared to others (since English is my second language), I am not knowledgeable enough, not experienced enough in ministry. I could think of all the things I am not perfect at. Or I can claim the work of God in me. And I can just allow myself to be filled with God’s words and power to serve others as a Connection and Care pastor. Today’s Scripture speaks strongly to me--“made holy by the Holy Spirit, grace given to me by God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, God is the giver of the power we need each day. God’s Holy Spirit is present, at work in our lives. This is so freeing yet so humbling. It is my hope that you embrace yourself as God’s servant with God’s authority. May God’s power overflow in you to serve others in meaningful, life changing ways.
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