Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory for the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders, you shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.
Isaiah 60: 1-3, 18
We remain in the season of Lent, a season that includes soul-stirring reflection, examination, and lamentation. There is a rich history of lament within the Christian tradition. Christ lamented as he hung on the cross crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” During these times, we are reaching within the deepest recesses of our souls and asking plaintive questions.
As I am confronted with the horrific shooting rampage in Atlanta and the deaths of eight people, I must also confront the long history of violence against Asian Americans. When I reflect on this tragic history, I lament.
I lament that we do not rejoice in the expanse of God’s creativity and agency by rejecting one another. I lament that we do not accept God’s invitation to love extravagantly by subjectively offering our love. I lament that we do not embrace God’s vision to see innocently by myopically choosing to see God’s beloved as strangers. These choices have a direct impact on the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Often the best demonstration of solidarity is to listen to those most deeply affected. I invite us to listen to the pain, suffering, struggle, and deep longings of our Korean siblings as voiced through the Korean Caucus of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Let us listen to them, below, to understand:
In the darkest and the most challenging period of Korean history, in 1902, a handful of Korean people left their country due to the invasion by the Japanese Empire. A couple of months later, they arrived at the east coast of the US with deep sadness and anger. Even if they did not know how to support their people on the other side of the world, the first Korean immigrants supported each other by establishing a church for Korean people. New converts of the first Korean immigrants built churches and gathered to find hope in Christ. Later, there was another turning point in Korean American immigrant history. The new Immigrant Act was passed in 1965, and many Koreans left their country again, with new hope called the "American Dream."
Today, the world that Korean Americans are facing is not the same anymore. Every day we hear heartbreaking news. We understand that the year 2020 was very challenging for everyone. The COVID-19 outbreak dismantled the concept of “normality,” and our society was divided due to extremely different voices. We raised our voice, proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” but still could not bring harmonious accordance.
On March 16, there was a terrible shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. A man named Robert Aaron Long allegedly drove to massage parlors and killed eight people. Police are still investigating, and said, “nothing is off the table” to discern if this was “racially motivated.” But the killing had a profound impact on the Asian American community, and many immigrants became so resentful as they considered this tragedy.
Some said that it was a tragic crime. Some trivialized it by saying that “he (the shooter) had a bad day.” The Asian community does not regard this as “just” a crime. That’s because it reminds Asian American immigrants of the painful memories and personal disturbances from the immigrant life. What made us even more concerned was that the crime often targets the most vulnerable people: Asian females and elderly immigrants. According to the New Federation of Asian American United Methodists, more than 122 incidents against Asian Americans have been committed in 16 of the country’s most populous cities since 2020, an increase of almost 150% over the previous year. In New York, the hate crimes targeting Asian people haves increased by over 800%. In LA, they have increased by 114%, in Boston by 130%, and in California, by 150%. Only the reported cases were counted.
To our Methodist sisters and brothers, especially the churches in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, we, the Korean Caucus, ask you to preach the Good News for our vulnerable neighbors and pray for the immigrant people standing on the margins. We hope you remember that Christian communities of the United States have always been a great help and resource for Korean immigrants. The American dream may disappear, but the immigrant community still desires Pax Christi, the Peace of Christ, through Christian brothers and sisters.
We wanted to share the worship resources that follow, and heartfully ask your participation during upcoming Sundays.
*Call to Worship
Hosanna! Who comes in the name of the dead, grieving, and mourning?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Hosanna! Who comes in the name of the ignored, neglected, and marginalized?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Hosanna! Who comes in the name of children, single parents, and immigrants?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
*Opening Prayer: (Based on Ephesians 13-16)
Humble yet victorious Lord: We rejoice in your entry into the world and our lives. Joining with the crowds in praising and thanksgiving, we welcome you who bore our sins. When we were once far off, you brought us back to you by the blood of Christ. You broke down the dividing wall to bring peace with one another.
We welcome you that our eyes of heart be open to your vision of one new humanity in Christ.
We welcome you that we are healed from our wounds, delivered from self-centeredness, pride, and hate.
We welcome you that we are strengthened to forgive, restored to your image.
We welcome you that we each be empowered to be a minister of reconciliation.
We welcome you. Come. Lord. Save us. In the name of Jesus who is our redeemer. Amen.
Beloved, we have heard from our Korean brothers and sisters. May we receive their sharing as a sacred gift and respond in ways that demonstrate our love, understanding, and solidarity. May we be as Christ to them and to the world.
Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling and The Korean Caucus of the Baltimore-Washington Conference