Sunday, March 24, 2013

종려주일 - Palm Sunday

Hosanna! It's Palm Sunday, but I could easily have missed it. I woke up a little bit late this morning and considered not going to church on account of my tardiness. In addition, I knew that today would be a special joint service for Communion with the main church which hosts the international para-church that I go to. This meant the entire service would be in Korean, with interpretation provided. I didn't know what to expect from this, and I wasn't 100% willing to go. But I went anyway, and I even enjoyed it, so there I go again, proving myself wrong.

Here in Changwon, I've been attending Hanbit International Christian Fellowship, which is not a church, but a para-church that is maintained by Hanbit Presbyterian Church. Services are conducted entirely in English and take place on Sunday mornings at the same time as one of the main branch's services.

This is why I've never had the opportunity to see what the big church itself is like for the past six months (since I arrived in this city) until today.

It's legit: they have a choir, big screens, over a dozen people in their worship band, and three floors to accommodate all their congregants. They also serve sponge cake as the bread for Communion (heh). Most importantly, they had a simultaneous interpreter for the entirety of the service, narrating the order of worship and translating all of the pastor's words through a headset given to every somewhat-confused foreigner. She did very well, considering the demanding nature of an interpreter's job.

I had a hard time following the songs, though, since they were being sung too fast for me to understand the lyrics, and too loud for me to hear the interpreter explaining the meaning. But the sermon was good. The pastor showed a clip from the recent Les Mis movie and talked about how it is difficult for some people to accept grace when it is given to them. Jean Valjean accepted grace (and mercy) from Monseigneur Bienvenu and dramatically turned his life around as a result. Javert, on the other hand, was granted his freedom by Jean Valjean, and it caused him such deep internal conflict that he committed suicide.

The pastor compared the two characters to Peter and Judas in the Gospels, where Peter disowns Jesus (Matthew 26) but is later forgiven and goes on to become the founder of the Church, but Judas, who was "seized with remorse" after betraying Jesus (Matthew 27), tried to undo his actions, was refused by the high priests, and then hanged himself. ...

Hm, actually, I'm beginning to question the parallel being drawn here, especially because Judas wasn't shown grace by anyone. He's always painted as a pure villain who deserved what he got. Javert, on the other hand, is Valjean's antagonist but he's not a villain. He's not evil. He's just fanatically devoted to an impossible ideal of justice.

Okay, well, this is beside the point. The point is we must be able to accept grace even when we know we don't deserve a shred of forgiveness, otherwise our lives will never change. Christians can go around saying they love God all day, but you know they haven't really accepted the reality if their actions don't reflect God's grace at work in them. If you can receive grace, like Valjean, you can live with peace and love and do great things. If you can't receive grace, like Javert, then... it may be difficult to live at all.

... Oof. And I was expecting a typical Palm Sunday sermon about joy and rescue and donkeys and kids with big leaves dancing around, but hey.

So that is how church went today. I tried very hard to use the simultaneous interpretation to pick up some new words or phrases, but it was difficult because of the delay. Instead, I flipped through the program and listened closely to the songs to pick up new vocabulary:

십자가 (shipjaga) means "cross", like the shape or Jesus' cross.
귀하고 귀하다 (kwihago kwihada) means "scarce and precious", and it seems to be used most often in reference to the idea of "amazing grace", especially in the Korean translation of the famous hymn.
예수의 피 밖에 없네 (yesuye pi bakke eomne) means "nothing but the blood of Jesus", again taken from a line in a hymn. It seems rather unfortunate that the Korean word for "blood" sounds like the English word for "urine", doesn't it? :\
종려주일 (jongryeo ju-il) means "Palm Sunday"!

Have a blessed Holy Week (성주간/Sungjugan)!

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