With glad and generous hearts
June 28, 2017 / By Rev. Sherri Rood, Cornerstone District Superintendent
"Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." Acts 2:46-47
I've been reflecting on our trip to South Korea and "with glad and generous hearts" describes my experience of the wonderful Christians we met at Bupyeong Methodist Church and each church we visited. The people were gracious and full of the love of Christ. This love was generously showered on us through the hospitality offered throughout our stay. We were greeted at the airport with roses and warm smiles. Our rooms were well appointed, complete with a bud vase for our roses, an ever-changing variety of sweets, slippers and fresh linens. Banners were hung throughout the church welcoming "The Upper New York Conference to a Spiritual Pilgrimage in Korea." We were offered a feast every morning for breakfast, complete with linen table cloths, fine china, and silver. Everywhere we went, we were welcomed and greeted with bows, smiles, and handshakes. It was a lovely and humbling experience.
But the glad and generous hearts of the people moved far beyond welcoming a group of Americans to their country. Throughout the week we witnessed people gladly and generously offering their best to glorify Christ and the Church. When I arrived for prayer a little before 5 a.m., the sanctuary was already full of people, quietly whispering their prayers. The sanctuary at that hour felt like a "thin place," a place where heaven and earth come very close together. Before too long, the choir would quietly make their way into the choir loft. Each day I counted at least 75 people in the choir - every morning - at 5 a.m. - prepared to offer their best to God. It was amazing!
At all the worship services, but especially at 5 a.m. prayer, the congregation clapped and sang their hearts out too, all to the driving beat of an associate pastor pounding on the lectern. After a prayer, scripture and a brief sermon, the congregation would sing another hymn would then move into the prayer practice of Tongsung Kido. Tongsung Kido is a time of supplication when the people cry out to God to listen and pray out loud all at the same time. To pray out loud with 400 to 600 people at 5:30 in the morning is an incredibly profound and freeing experience! My prayer life was revived by praying with the people of Bupyeong and will never be the same again.
The Bupyeong Methodist Church has nine choirs, an orchestra, several organists, and other musicians. On Sunday night, we were treated to a mini concert that included a string quartet, a flutist, several vocalists, a pianist (Pastor Hong's son who had recently auditioned at the Eastman School of Music), and a Marimba player! We were also treated to a performance by the church's children's choir. All played and sang with excellence, and offered their gifts with glad and generous hearts.
One morning, we saw a team of people cleaning the sanctuary. They dusted, vacuumed, and scrubbed until everything in the sanctuary shone. I joked with Nancy Adams that there must not be dust bunnies in Korea because I had yet to see one! Later on I saw a lady wiping down the marble planters outside. Another day, on an early morning walk, I found a man cleaning the outdoor courtyard with a floor scrubber. The parking ramp was immaculate from top to bottom. A glad and generous love for Christ and the Church seemingly permeated every action of every person in the church. My sense is that all this care was not prideful, but is instead a way for people to show their love for God by caring for what God has entrusted to them. More importantly, the people of Bupyeong demonstrated their love for one another by creating space that is gracious and welcoming to all. When we do our best it honors God.
Grace and honor was especially apparent in the tradition of bowing to one another. While I was pretty awkward about it at first, it really felt like we were humbly honoring the person we were greeting. One morning, on my way out of prayer service, an older woman greeted me at the door. She didn't have to bow far because she was pretty bent over and used a cane. I greeted her with a bow and as she took my hand in hers, she began to talk to me. I have no idea what she said, but I could see the caring in her eyes and smile. I met her again on our last day. She greeted me like an old friend and again began talking to me in Korean. I smiled and nodded as we blessed one another with our presence and shared words of thanks - really the only word I knew in Korean: Thank you. It was a holy moment.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have had this experience, for it has renewed my commitment to prayerfully live with a glad and generous heart.