By Paul Black
PEORIA – Weaving the story of the Israelites crossing over into the Promised Land, Rev. In-Sook Hwang urged those gathered for Thursday’s memorial service to get their feet wet, to stand tall holding up God’s Word is the middle of the uncertain and risky current of changes and disruptive journey.
“Getting into the water is almost a dying experience,” Hwang said. “Dying to our old selves, giving up being in control and yielding our lives to God. In the process, we experience God’s transforming power to make us new. We died to ourselves in the water of baptism and rose as the people of Jesus Christ.”
Hwang said one of the ways is becoming popular in remembering loved ones is memorial stones with a special messages – some words with a special message that tells about their lives and characters.
“God’s people raised the same question when they came to Gilgal where 12 stones were arranged in a circle,” she said. “The people asked, ‘What do those stones mean to us?’ And then an elder of the group began to tell the story. God’s people gather together to retell and re-enact the story, not as a once-upon-a-time story, but as a living testimony. They were reminded of who God was, who they were and what it meant to be God’s people.”
Retelling the story of the Israelites, the 40 years of wandering in the desert, the death of Moses and the new leadership of Joshua and Caleb, Hwang said one last obstacle stood in the way of the Israelites – the Jordan River. “They are standing at the edge of the river. There is no bridge, no boat, nothing, except worn-out people and their inexperienced leaders,” she said. “The water of the river is overflowing its banks. They can’t go back to where they came from. They have no idea how to cross the river. They are stuck between the wilderness and the Jordan River. Dead-end!”
“You have been doing ministry for many years. Somehow you feel you don’t know what to do anymore. You find yourself burned out. All the ways you have done in the past don’t seem to work any longer,” Hwang said. “Your church has been in your community for 100 years, but now you wonder how your church can be connected to surrounding community. Community people see your church building as a strange museum.”
Hwang said there are two options – to react with fear, despair and helplessness, or we can take it as an opportunity to experience God’s living power.
“We as God’s people take God’s words seriously and let them guide our lives,” she said. “Our loved ones lived unique lives, yet each one’s faith was deeply rooted in God words and lived them out. They are living testimonies to how important it is to meditate on God’s words and to teach other people with them.”
The second faith lesson was that the leaders got their feet wet first. “God requires a total commitment, a complete trust without seeing the outcome,” Hwang said. “God requires us to get our feet wet first, without knowing the waters will part.”
Hwang said that what the church today lacks is neither new programs nor money but living testimonies. “What we need in the midst of the current of changes is our first-hand testimonies to God’s living power,” she said. “In fact our love ones who are being remembered today were the ones who lived out their faith and encouraged us to grow stronger in Christ. They supported us in difficult times and they walked with us in our faith journey. They were God’s living stones, standing tall and shining like a lighthouse calling people to safety in the midst of overwhelming currents. Our loved ones left a legacy on our hearts reminding us that we are also the living stones, God’s living testimony to today’s world.”