Monday, July 15 by Pastor Ho Lee

“Relational God, Relational Church”

Mark 12:28-34

I’m very excited about this new church. I believe there’s some reason why I’m here. I was born and raised in South Korea. I’ve been in the United States for 10 years. In that time, I studied at university. I planned to go to Africa, but somehow I wound up in Wisconsin. And I’m in a little bit of culture shock, such as Packers game, and cheese, and cheese curds and fish fries. There a lot of things I need to learn more. But that is where I am now. Now I am here and I’m very excited because of the gospel. When I reflected on the great welcome you showed me, I wondered, how can I repay this hospitality? What should I do? Maybe one of the ways I can repay is to be a good and effective pastor for our congregation who can build up a very healthy and God-centered church. Also, I just ask myself, how can I be a good pastor? How can we build up a healthy and God-centered church. Maybe we need to go back to the foundation of our Christian life.

What is the principle foundation of being a Christian? One of the scribes asks the same questions of Jesus Christ – which commandment is the first of them all? What does Jesus say? Love your God. What is the second? Love your neighbor as yourself. So the principle is very simple: love your God and love your neighbor. The real question is, what is the meaning behind it? Why did God say that? How can we apply that to our lives? How can we understand it? That is today’s topic: the foundation and principle.

One of the things I would like to say, repeat after me: God is relational. God is relational. We can find this relational God everywhere in the Bible. We believe in 3 different God’s: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but we say that they are one: the trinity. Why do we believe in the triune God? It’s very simple, because God is very relational, so even God himself has a relationship with each other. Also, when God created human beings it was to be in fellowship with Him. God is very relational. Jesus died on the cross for us to restore the relationship. Because of Adam, our intimate relationship with God is broken, but that’s why Jesus came to kill himself on the cross to merge the gap between God and human beings. So his life, his death, his resurrection is to restore the relationship.

When we celebrate Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit entering people to let them speak in different languages, and they become one and bridge their differences. The Holy Spirit works to build up relationships among us. We can see the relationships building. So from God, from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit we can see relationships. That is why God is very relational. Also God wants us to build a relationship with Him. So during my ministry here I will be very focused on helping our members build their relationships with God. That is one of my purposes while I am here. And I will help you to feel the presence of God in the worship service and in your daily life.

One other thing I wanted to note, when you think about this principle of loving your neighbor, which one comes first? Love your God, not love your neighbor. Love your God comes first because we can love our neighbor because of the relationship with God. Without God you can’t love your neighbor. So love God first.

The second principle is this, repeat after me: Church is relational. Church is relational. Pastoral ministry is all about relationships. Ministry depends on the relationship with your church members. Church is not the building – church is the gathering of the believers. Because we believe in God, who is relational, we also should be relational. We are created to be relational. Research has shown that if you want to live healthier and longer, relationships are the most important thing. At the same time, before he died on the night on which he was betrayed, Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Because I have loved you, you should love one another. This is how people will know you.” This is a new commandment for all believers, disciples. This message is for those of us inside of the church. Church members should love one another. That is the new commandment God wanted us to know. That is his will.

We start with loving God first, and then we should love our church members. Then, we will go out toward other people in the world, step by step. First, love your God, second, love your church, third, love your neighbors. That’s how it goes. We should build up a loving relationship within our church members. Nowadays I find that many churches look more like a leisure rotary club, they meet once a month or once a week for an hour or two, maybe have a little coffee and then leave. That is not a church. Churches should be a family. We have to laugh together. We have to cry together. That is why we build up a trusting and loving relationship with one another. But you have one problem: me. You’re stuck with me – some Asian guy who speaks funny with an accent, because I learned English from Boston and South Korea. You can’t kick me out of the church. I will be here. I will not go anywhere. One of my purposes is to be your friend and your family member until you accept me as your family member I will stay in here. So you’re stuck with me.

I have a lot of limitations. One of my limitations is my accent. Another one is my culture. My culture is very different from yours. Maybe if I explained my culture you will be very surprised. But we have a lot of differences, but if we want to be a family member, we have to overcome a lot of challenges. But we can overcome them to become a family. I will promise you, if you overcome these differences and we become a real family, we will feel the real Holy Spirit. We will overcome the differences and become one body of Christ.

From now on, my ministry will focus on relationships. For 6 months, I will try to remember all of your names. I will also try to meet you one on one. I will go to your house. I will kind of harass you because I’m kind of pushy. One of my church members at the church I just said goodbye to stood up and said, “You are kind of pushy. That’s why I like you. Without you pushing me to do something in the church, I would’ve never found this ministry that I love.” So please remember, even if you feel like I’m pushy, it’s okay. You can say no, that is okay, but I will continue to push you until you find your ministry. Everybody has their own calling. Everyone has their own talents. One of my jobs is to help you find your calling from God. So I will push you here and there and here and there until you find your calling. That’s my job. Whenever I push you, it gets you thinking about ministry.

I want to see all of the church members in the next two months, in July and August, in people’s homes so I can get to know you. I hope that I will become your family member within 6 months.

God is relational. Church is relational. I hope that we become relational and we believe in a relational God and become a relational church. Amen.