페이지 정보작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 16:50 조회1,023회 댓글0건
Reading a good book is like crossing paths with a good teacher. Recently, I greatly enjoyed reading a book called An Annotated Biography of Wang-Dang, Kim Chung-Hee, written by Hongjoon Yoo. Wang Dang, along with Choo Sa, was one of many pen names for Chunghee Kim. The book was a biography of Chunghee Kim (1786-1856), a renowned calligrapher of the Chosun Dynasty who made the unique calligraphy style called “Choosa” form of calligraphy famous. Choosa form is uniquely different from the standard form of Chinese calligraphy, being strangely beautiful and solemn yet eccentric and meticulous. Because of Choosa form, Chunghee Kim is known as the best calligrapher in the history of the Korean peninsula. Some people even consider him as a God-given calligrapher.
The thing that left an indelible impression on me about this biography was the fact that Chunghee Kim developed Choosa form of calligraphy while in exile at Cheju Island. When he was a high-ranking government official, he was busy studying and emulating the writing styles of Chinese calligraphers; however, during his exile perhaps the most difficult and trying period of his life he developed the most creative and beautiful writing. Kim was a victim of the chronic partisan dispute that characterized and plagued the latter periods of Chosun Dynasty; as a result, he was sent on a 9-year exile to Taejongri in Cheju Island, the farthest place from Seoul. While in exile, Kim had to suffer through malnutrition, lack of adequate clothing, and bouts with numerous diseases. But the artistic world of Chunghee Kim blossomed during this bleak, desolate and difficult period of long exile.
Perusing through the history of the Chosun Dynasty, we can see that Chunghee Kim was not the only one who made great accomplishments while in exile. Da San (pen name) Yakyong Chung (1762-1836) wrote his immortal masterpieces during his 18-year exile at Cholla Province, in a village called Kangjin. One of his books written in exile, Ideology in Moral Governance of People, is such a great work that Ho Chi Minh, the father of Vietnamese revolution, referred to it as a crucial and requisite reading material for defeating corruption and illegal practices in government. Inbo Chung, a noted figure of Chosun Dynasty, stated that “study of Yakyong Chung is a study of Chosun history, a research of modern Chosun thought, a study in Chosun spirit’s brightness and darkness, and a study of the rise, fall, destiny and fate of Chosun Dynasty.” The point that I would like to make this morning is the fact that great works by renowned figures of Chosun Dynasty were created while their authors and creators were in exile.
While reading the exile stories of Chunghee Kim and Yakyong Chung, I think of John, who wrote the Book of Revelation while in exile at Patmos Island. Would Kim and Chung have created their great works had they not have been in exile, instead enjoying authority and powers bestowed by their bureaucratic positions in Chosun government? For both Kim and Chung, the period of exile was one of great tribulation, pain, solitude, and suffering; yet, for the rest of us, the exile may have been a good thing. For had they not have been in exile, the great works of art and the masterpieces in political literature probably would not have been created.
Likewise, had John not been in exile at Patmos, the great Book of Revelation would not have seen any light. Therefore, it was good that John was in exile indeed, a great blessing of God. As a matter of fact, the most difficult gospel of the 27 gospels of the New Testament of the Bible is Revelation. Revelation encrypts the great secrets of the end of the world; therefore, for casual readers, the true meaning is difficult to decipher or understand. But if we take into consideration the situation that John was in while in exile, then Revelation is not that difficult to comprehend.
Revelation was recorded during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD), at the height of Roman persecution of Christians. Domitian proclaimed himself as god and exacted cruel revenge upon those who believed in other gods. Since Christians had the strongest voice in opposing the emperor worship, Domitian persecuted, tortured, and killed Christians in a matter that is not even describable. Countless number of Christians in Asia Minor were tortured and perished in the most gruesome and brutal manner imaginable.
When the blood of these martyrs were soaking the ground across the Roman Empire, John was in exile at Patmos. Jerome, one of the priests of the early church, records that John went in exile 14 years after Emperor Nero died and was freed in the year that Domitian died. This means that John was in exile from 94 to 96 AD. Patmos Island was one of the islands of Sporades Archipelago, and it was a desolate island full of nothing but pebbles and boulders. It was a small island, about 10 miles in length and 5 miles in width. Patmos was about 40 miles off the coast of Asia Minor; however, it was an important island, for it served as the last port between Rome and Ephesus.
Exile was a harsh form of punishment in Roman Empire, usually given to political criminals. Prisoners in exile lost all rights and forfeited all their property and wealth to the government. For those prisoners who had refused emperor worship like John, the punishment was especially harsh they were usually exiled to barren and isolated outposts, while being condemned to perform forced labor. Given the fact that he was a Christian, John was fortunate to escape public execution; yet, he still had to perform forced labor at a quarry in Patmos. Therefore, Sir William Ramsay would go on to say that while in exile, John had to be shackled with chains, suffer malnutrition and inadequate clothing, sleep on a barren ground, and be imprisoned under the watchful eyes of whip-wielding guards. In this desperate and torturous exile, John heard the revelations of things to come from God and wrote Revelation. It is said that John wrote Revelations in a cave that overlooked the ocean from a cliff.
What I want to stress this morning is that insufferable periods like exile are not necessarily bad. Rather, they can be a great blessing for God, oneself, and one’s neighbors. Think about it. While young, and full of passion and vigor, Moses killed an Egyptian that was harassing one of his people. When the pharaoh learned of this killing, he sought Moses to kill him; Moses, in turn, left Egypt to seek refuge in Medina Plains. For 40 years, Moses was on a half self-imposed and half pharaoh-imposed exile in Medina. But those 40 years were not time lost or wasted for God, the people of Israel, or Moses himself. During his exile, Moses heard the revelations from God and decided to rescue the people of Israel from the shackles of Egypt; furthermore, he was able to smooth the edges off of his volatile personality.
Same thing happened to Jesus. In a sense, Jesus was sent on exile to earth from heaven. On earth, unlike His Father’s Kingdom, tribulations, persecution, and death at the cross greeted Jesus. But because He was in exile, He accomplished the great work of saving mankind. Jesus’ exile became God’s glory when His intent was met on earth while the mankind was saved, and Jesus Himself became the King of kings and the King of man through His obedience and death at the cross.
In many ways, we, as immigrants, are in exile and on asylum. Although we enjoy great freedoms in this land, we are still crippled by cultural, linguistic, and ethnic barriers. For survival, we weather harsh lifestyles usually reserved for immigrant families. But if we think about those exiled in the Bible, and the renowned figures from Chosun Dynasty that I’ve mentioned, then the suffering and tribulations of an exile in not necessarily bad for it provides an opportunity of great accomplishments. Believe the fact that periods of exile can become a source of great blessing and glory for God and us! Let’s take a look at John’s situation, as he was exiled in Patmos and wrote Revelation. He found three treasures while he was exiled.
First, John discovered God. Had John enjoyed comfort and freedom in exercising his religious beliefs, then he would not have written Revelation. John was able to hear God’s revelations and was able to translate it into words because he went through indescribable suffering in Patmos. John confesses as such in verse 9 of today’s scripture. “I, John both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Pay attention to the words tribulation/persecution, or thlipsis; kingdom, or basileia; and patience, or hypomone. John remembered the great persecution and martyrdom of his fellow Christians at the hands of Domitian. John himself was suffering through the same persecution. But the persecution did not merely end as persecution. Rather, it continued into ‘basileia,’ or the hope of Heaven. He had the vision of the eternal heaven, where there is no death, tears, or suffering. Because of this vision he was able to endure and persevere through all the persecutions and tortures.
More importantly, at Patmos, John was able to see the living Jesus while in exile. Not only did he see past images of Jesus, who gave saved mankind by dying at the cross; but John was also able to see the present image of Jesus, as He was comforting the suffering Christians; and the future visions of Jesus ascending on a cloud to advent as the judge during the day of revelation. John was able to see all 3 tenses past, present, future of Jesus that he would never have seen had he not been in exile.
In this exile called immigration, I hope that all of us can see the living Jesus. One person asked me a rhetorical question of “how can you not believe in Jesus as ones living in an immigrant society?” I hope that each of one you get to see Jesus. Do not forget the fact that your tears, pain, and suffering may indeed be the most opportunistic ticket, or chance, to see God.
Second, John discovered his neighbors. Take a look at verse 11. “What you see, write in a book and send to seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” The most important portion of the Book of Revelation is the revelations that Jesus gives to the seven churches of Asia Minor. John did not forget his suffering brothers and sisters from other churches while in exile at Patmos. Saying that Revelation is a Book written solely to comfort and to give hope to those Christians wrongly persecuted by Domitian is not an overstatement. It was written to convey the vision that Jesus will eventually advent to judge the anti-Christian forces, even though Christians were in the midst of great sufferings at the hands of these forces.
There is a saying that only trial and tribulations bring about true character in a man. There is a Korean Proverb that states, “Some even pay to suffer when young to gain experience.” Be humble when you feel that immigrant lifestyle is hard and difficult. Then you will be able to view with love those who are undergoing same tribulations. Our exile will allow us to turn our gaze to our neighbors and allow our hearts the generosity and mercy to share in the suffering and pain of those around us.
Third, John discovered himself. John did not despair or complain while in exile at Patmos. Rather, he discovered the tasks that he needed to perform in this time of great tribulations. He discovered his mission. His mission in the midst of this persecution and confusion was comforting the suffering Christians and giving them hope and courage. John was to let them know that present suffering was nothing compared to the glory that is to come; that Jesus will come as the final judge to vanquish all those that are unjust and establish justice; and that He will wash away all the tears of Christians and heal their wounds. Because the watch and vigilance against Christianity was at its highest in the Roman Empire at the time, John had to resort to symbolism, metaphors, codes, and encryption to metaphorically disguise and express this message to fellow Christians.
Before he was exiled to Cheju Island, Chunghee Kim was an arrogant person. He was sure that he was the best scholar and writer in not only Chosun but in East Asia. Kim passed Chunju on his way to Cheju from Seoul. In Chunju lived another renowned calligrapher of Chosun Dynasty, Chang Am (pen name) Samman Lee (1770-1847). Lee, upon learning that the great writer Kim was in town, invited him to his house. Lee wanted to show him his writings to get Kim’s opinion. Of course, he wanted acknowledgment and recognition from the renowned Kim, considered Chosun’s best calligrapher. But Kim, upon hearing this request while in Lee’s house, jumped up from his seat as if greatly insulted and spat out one phrase. “You should be able to make a living in the countryside with your writings.” It was truly rude, uncivil and arrogant thing to say to another artist. When the students of Lee, enraged at this insult levied on their mentor, came to inflict bodily harm to Kim, Lee stopped them and turned them away.
While in exile at Cheju, however, Kim was able to smooth the edges of his volatile personality. While suffering in exile, the arrogant and snobbish personality gradually turned into gentle and humble personality. On his way to Seoul after 9 years in exile, Kim stopped by Chunju to visit Lee to apologize for his past insolence. But Lee had already passes away; still, Kim visited and knelt in front of his grave and asked for his forgiveness. Furthermore, he wrote a eulogy of Lee on his tombstone.
When people run into problems and suffer through tribulations, they become humble. They discover the fragile aspects of themselves as creatures. When successful, and when things are going well, people have difficult time discerning their own true character. Only when discarded at the bottom of the abyss do people become honest and truthful about themselves. Our lives as immigrants are difficult. There are many obstacles and sorrow. Even in the midst of such difficulties and sufferings, we can find our true task. In this exile called immigration, I truly hope that we can find our true callings and true selves!
Had he not been exiled to Cheju, Chunghee Kim probably would not have developed Choosa form of calligraphy. Had he not been exiled, Yakyong Chung probably would not have written Ideology in Moral Governance of People. Had he not been chased into the Medina Plains, Moses probably would not have become the hero of Exodus. Had He not been exiled to earth, Jesus probably would not have accomplished the monumental task of salvation of mankind. Had John not been exiled to Patmos, he probably would not have recorded Revelation.
Likewise, had we not immigrated to the US, there are probably things that we would not have accomplished. God’s intent led us to America. This morning, I hope that each one of us can humbly and sincerely ask why God sent us to America. No matter how you answer, one thing is for certain. Tribulation builds character! Tribulation brings deeper meanings to life! Hence, tribulation allows us to discover our neighbors, God, and ourselves.
“As I walked through a tall forest, I became taller; as I crossed a deep river, my soul became deeper.”
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn of Your statutes.” (Psalms 119: 71)
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