Convinced

Stated Clerk in Korea: Christians ‘not limited by the disappointments, defeats and difficulties of this earthly experience’

November 9, 2017

Stated Clerk, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II

Stated Clerk, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II

SEOUL

Echoing the apostle Paul in a sermon to a large congregation here November 5, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II, said Christians “are the products of an amazing God whose grace sustains us.” 

Preaching from Romans 9:38, Nelson said Paul’s “zeal for the gospel represented a singleness of mind and purpose for claiming souls for the Kingdom of God and said that determination “is a reminder that through the power of God and God’s son, Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit we are not limited by the disappointments, defeats and difficulties of this earthly experience.”

And yet, Nelson continued, we spend a great deal of time attempting to “pin God down”or determine why God does what God does. “We seek to play a game of spiritual pitch and toss,” he said, “as we assign blame on occurrences in our life between God and the devil. When we feel blessed we thank God! When we feel guilty for wrongdoing, we blame it on the devil (or on “evil” if you drop the d).”

Nelson led a delegation to South Korea for a 10-day series of meetings with Korean Presbyterian leaders. The journey featured special events to remember the slaughter of as many as 300 Korean civilians by U.S. troops at No Gun Ri just south of here in July 1950  during the early days of the Korean War. Nelson expressed remorse for the PC(USA)’s silence about the massacre and pledged the church’s resolve to elicit and official acknowledgement and apology from the U.S. government.

The Stated Clerk called incidents such as the No Gun Ri massacre “preventable evil” and called both the Korean and U.S. Presbyterian churches to continue to work together “to stop the threats of war and nuclear annihilation on the Korean Peninsula” and to help the reunification of families and nations torn apart since World War II.

The full text of Nelson’s sermon:

ARE YOU CONVINCED?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 9:38)

The Apostle Paul writes a significant theological affirmation for the Church of Jesus Christ in his letter to Rome. There is a maturity that emerges in Paul’s view of God. I have particularly appreciated the introductory statement as a personal theme for ministry when Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16a) These words set the thematic tone for what is to follow. Now, let me acknowledge that this letter to the Roman Church can be quite controversial in many aspects of both the world and Church. His rendering on being subject to governing authorities is somewhat questionable, particularly when we are witnessing extreme strangeness in our global political climate. But, one must remember that Paul was once in authority among those who were killing Christians in the early Church. As a matter of faith, it was the Holy Spirit who called him to preach the gospel in Acts 9. His conversation story is well documented. So, we know that he was in some sense a renegade to the traditional call process as witnessed by Jesus calling the original twelve disciples. He was not in the upper room post resurrection. He is not recorded as being there on the day of Pentecost, but nevertheless he was one of the greatest evangelists recorded in early Christen Church. Paul’s life in faith was filled with contradictions in the service of the Lord. However, his zeal for the gospel represented a singleness of mind and purpose for claiming souls for the Kingdom of God

The letter to the Roman Church states a disposition about God that challenges our thinking about the divine deity. Paul pours out his heart to that Church by stating that God has all power and dominion over all things. He contends that it is through the power of God’s son Jesus Christ that we are given power to live. He writes “…We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) We hear these words in our lesson for the morning. It is a reminder that through the power of God and God’s son, Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit we are not limited by the disappointments, defeats and difficulties of this earthly experience. But, we are the products of an amazing God whose grace sustains us. A God whose eternal glory stands as the hallmark of divine achievement and whose love is ever-present throughout our journey.

Despite knowing this assurance, we spend a great deal of time attempting to “pin God down” or give definition as to why God does what God does. We seek to play a game of spiritual pitch and toss as we assign blame on occurrences in our life between God and the devil. When we feel blessed we thank God! When we feel guilty for wrongdoing, we blame it on the devil. I know that Presbyterians don’t like to use the term devil. If it makes you feel better, take the letter off of the word devil and you have the word “evil.” I hope that helps

I remember sitting with a friend several years ago whose father was dying of cancer at a relatively early age and she was asking, ‘how could God do this to him at such an early age?’ The answer to my friend’s question is that life and death are a part of the human experience. If we live we will die. If we live we will get sick. If we live we will face struggles in our life. Some suffering is a part of the human experience. And, that is why God gave us Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit as a comforter in both good and difficult times.

We tend to struggle and vacillate between who to blame or who is responsible for the brokenness in our lives and world. But, I want to suggest that the writer of that life tends to offer. An inquiry into this matter would lead us to ask, “Is the will of God both good and evil?” Does God possess a schizophrenic personality? Are human tragedies, violence upon human beings, rape, war, destruction and inhumane treatment symptomatic of the will of God? I want to suggest that the writer of 1 John is right when he writes in chapter 4 “Beloved. let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever, does not love does not know God, for God is love. Therefore, any act that is oppositional to love is not of God, but instead the product of wayward and sinful human beings.

My travel to South Korea with a delegation of members belonging to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the result of preventable evils. We came to review the atrocities of the forgotten war – the Korean War; and the events No Gun Ri. We came to affirm our ecumenical witness with the National Council of Churches in Korea and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. We came to give thanks for your partnership with us and evangelistic/mission efforts across the globe. We came to preach and demonstrate the gospel by breaking bread in your house. We came as your brothers and sisters. And, you have been gracious in your hospitality and welcome.

It is imperative that we continue to work together in an effort to stop the threats of war and nuclear annihilation between the United States; and Northern and Southern Korea. It is imperative that we work together as Christians to reunite families divided by historic pressures from outside forces to proclaim a new day through the reunification of northern and southern Korea. It is imperative that we join ranks in being reminded that God calls us to be vigilant in our efforts to eradicate the threats of war in the twenty first century so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the 20th century in which we are both reminded everyday. We must remember that God is still active and calls us out as Christian believers in Jesus Christ to open ourselves to be advocates for a just world.

And why must we do it. We do it all because like The Apostle Paul has said to us this morning:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 9:38)

We do these things because the writer of I John has written: God is love!

We do these things together at the risk of our own life because Jesus has said:  Love the Lord with all of your heart soul and mind and love your neighbor as you love yourself  (Luke 10:27)

Leave a comment