Saturday, October 3, 2015

A City Without...

Toward the end of September 2015, my wife and I visited some friends in Japan along with a quick sight seeing from Tokyo, Kyoto to Kyushu. With the help of the excellent train network systems, we were able to take quite a few quick views of many cities and villages from the trains, even with the fast moving Shin-Kan-Sen.

Japan must be one of the few countries in the world who knows how to preserve the traditional buildings and keep them well.  With the train quick and brief window views, we heartily appreciate the efforts of the preservation.  The mostly narrow streets; the mountain sides; the yellow/green rice fields; the old roofs, sometime colorful, mostly gray and blue and the unique new high rise buildings…we took them all in with our eyes and a few times with the smart phone camera until we stopped at the city of Hiroshima.

From the view of the station of Hiroshima, we saw virtually all new buildings with only one or two old small houses.  And then we remembered what happened to the city seventy years and two months ago*.  On our way back from Kyushu to Kyoto during another brief stop at the Hiroshima station, we were quiet and solemn while a silent prayer was in my mind - a city without the old buildings

Hiroshima is a city with very few old houses but not a city without the memory.  Memory, one of the few most precious gifts with the human species, serves well among us globally and historically.

Then I remembered while we had lunch with a Taiwanese retired pastor in a suburban of the city of Tokyo just few days before.  He told us that he was somehow upset with some Taiwanese congregations, both in and out of Taiwan, began using the Mandarin instead the Taiwanese language during the worship services. “Even the Taiwanese Indigenous congregations keep their native tongues in their services,” he added.

A city without the old houses like Hiroshima can keep growing because they still have their memory, culture and tradition.  And the lives, past, present and future, are always treasured.

A people without their mother tongue, Taiwanese in this case, one wonders how far and where they can go.

P.S. While it is good and necessary to obtain Multi-language in today’s civilized world, it is sad to see that we would give up our mother tongue somehow.  Language is an important part of our culture that we were born with.  If we lose part of our culture, we lose part of ourselves as well. 

On August 6, 1945, during World War II, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima(廣島市). The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

God Be with Us All

Between September 2011 and January 2013,
I was involved in the learning process with primarily 2 classes: 
1) A class of newly high school graduates; 
2) A class of the ordained ministers who enrolled in 
the advanced study of the theologies.
Almost immediately, I fell in love with both classes. 
Regardless the differences in ages, they are cute in spirit and fresh in the academic adventures.
I searched from both my memory and the up-to-date internet resources to challenge them, also to myself, over the differences due to the cultural and language gaps. 
After all, I have been away from Taiwan for 
some forty years.  
And we still had a lot of fun together!  
Recently I made a quick trip back to the school and  congratulated the graduating students of the class of 2015.  
I have learned that a few of them are going for
advanced study of either M Div. or M Th. program. 
How encouraging this is!
On my way home, I got an email from one of the 
graduating students (see the letter inserted below) 
It reminded me of the scripture from Exodus 3:14 
“…I AM That I AM.”  God said. 
And somewhere back in my mind a more complete 
translation could be: “I was that I was; I am that I am; and I will be that I will be;” to which the Chinese/Taiwanese translation may have expressed better:  我是自有永有的/我是自然而然的.“ (出埃及記 3:14)
It meant that God would be with Moses 
- wherever he went and whatever he did.
It surely means, to all of us, 
that no matter where we’d be 
and whatever we would be doing, 
God is with us as well. 
Laughing, crying, singing, dancing, working...
God is there with us, a little scary
But mostly comforting.  
That is, forever, a good news to us all! 

A letter from a student of the School of Theology, CJCU:
在今年我們即將畢業. 我們每個人的目標也許不同
也許有人委身在, 當兵, 結婚

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Mirrors and Windows

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Gen 1:3

When God speaks, words turn into deeds; chaos turns into order.

When God speaks to us, sometimes however, we pay little attention, misunderstand or simply choose to ignore.  

Nevertheless the Bible is one of the few known existing collections of the words of God in the tradition of the Judaism and the Christianity.

And the Bible has thousands of versions with thousands more of the various translated languages in this world throughout the centuries.

It is always a question of how we read and understand them.

I. Mirrors

Read the Bible as if it would reflect us in a mirror and see ourselves fresh again.

Example 1:
1The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”  5David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 2 Samuel 12:1-6 (NIV)

Most of us are like David with the same reaction: Who? Me? No way! It must be about somebody else and that somebody is absolutely wrong! 

Even when we read further down, it is still all about David.  We think we have nothing to do with that story. We think we are not like David, just as David thought he was not like that rich man. Think again!

Example 2:
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15: 25-32 (NIV)

Have we ever wondered that it is harder for us (the big brothers/sisters) to welcome the lost son home than the waiting Father’s loving embrace?  Are we somehow afraid that the bad boy is back to steal our share of the Father’s blessings?
Let us read the Biblical stories as though they are mirrors reflecting our own stories.

Let us read the Bible with the open mind and eyes to see exactly where and what we are in those stories. 

II. Windows

“So often the church has little room for inquiring and struggling, making those (who) so engaged feel guilty for so little faith.” – Fred B. Craddock 

Read the Bible like seeing through a window with the lens of the love of God.

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria. 2 Kings 2:23-25 (NIV)

If God is what we believe He is - our loving shepherd who treats all the people as His children at all time - Would He endorse Prophet Elisha’s action while Elisha was angry with the childish comments from those boys?

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. 1 Samuel 15:3 (NIV)

What if those fighters attacked the much hated longtime enemy Amalekites and had killed all the living people and animals, then “borrowed” the words of God to cover up their horrible actions as a “holy” war order, just like the old saying, "accomplished fact" (Fait accompli)?

Here is another perspective about these texts:

“Some years ago, one of Great Britain’s leading Jewish intellectuals was being considered for the position of Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth when rumors arose that he was not quite solid enough in his religious faith. An extremely conservative member of the selection committee called him in, opened the Bible to chapter 15 of I Samuel, and read Samuel’s words to King Soul: ”thus said the Lord of Hosts… Attack Amalek, kill men and women, infants and children, oxen and sheep, sparing no one.”
The committee member then said to the candidate, “That’s in the Bible. Do you believe that God said it to Samuel?”
The candidate answered, “I believe that Samuel heard it, but I don’t believe that God said it.” The authentic voice of God would demand that we be more compassionate and less cruel…
The candidate did not get the position.

-  Harold S. Kushner, “Living Life That Matters” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)

To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, His love endures forever. Psalm 136:10 (NIV)  

Can we call the God who struck down the firstborn of Egypt “a God whose love endures forever”?

Are these stories/words coming directly from God or from an ancient tribe with harsh revenge/hatred in their minds during the wartime in the battle fields?

Can we read some of these stories straight through the lens of the love of God?

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice. Prov 24:17 (NIV)

 “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Cor 3:6 (NIV)

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Monday, January 19, 2015

若無仁愛 - Without Love

   Without love, there is no life
   Without life, there is no you
   Without you, there is no I...

God thought for a few long moments before He began his actions with His spoken words:

  He created the light out of the darkness
  He created the heaven and the earth
  The sun and the moon, the stars and the water
  The fish, birds and animal of all sorts
  And the human beings with His breath of life into them
  And into you and I ...

His words became the deeds.
And the world appeared.

Long before and after the rainbow that God had left His signature of forgiveness to human beings,
On the sky among the pure cotton-like clouds,
He keeps on whispering, "I love you. And you. And you. I always will.”  

He had even clothed Adam and Eve the first piece of human garments – out of the skins of animals - while they were on their way out from the Garden of Eden into their world.

God had been with them since.

And then the Word became Flesh - in Jesus. 

God has been with us ever since…

You see, it is not about when the universe was created; 
Not about how big this universe has been expending; 
It is all about how much that God loves us.
In spite of our failures... 
From the very beginning.  

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

捉迷藏 - The Game We Play

Almost all kids play a game called Hide and Seek where a ghost(seeker) counted from 1 through 10 and began to look for those who were hiding behind the trees, fence or just about in the shade of any furniture.  

It would be fun either way: to be found and became the next ghost(seeker), or stayed invisible as long as the game went.

Sometimes I think that we may play the exact Hide and Seek game with God too.  We try to stay in the shadow of the self center and eventually and completely lost in a way that not only we have no idea where we are, God the seeker seemed to be lost in locating us as well.

And we seemed to quit the game we play with God and not telling Him that we are done with the game already. 
Have we not? 

Thus God has been left in the shadow (behind the game) and we walked away without even saying good bye to Him.

And when God sent His Son Jesus looking for us, we acted as if He is a stranger and has been unwelcome after all anyway.

I wonder how many of us (and how often) we play with God sincerely and honestly and stay in the game as long as we ever walk on the earth?

How could God be not lonely?
How could God be not missing you and me? 

And when God is lonely, so are we.  

Perhaps that is why we built so many idols/playmates/shadows actually and virtually in our life time and still feel lonely after all.

Not to mention that in most of our prayers, we talk too much and listen too little...

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Where it all began...

As a World Church Fellow, I began my theological journey to Chicago in the summer of 1972.

I remember that very first Christmas I spent - being away from my home over the Pacific Ocean -  doing some Christmas carols at the Hyde Park by the campus of the University of Chicago - very cold. 

At one time, I was asked to do a solo of the Silent Night in Taiwanese. How interesting of that conductor - who was a professor of the New Testament. My eyes were quickly filled with tears, while my voice was cracked and my heart was graceful.

At the spring break of '73, I joined a few of my classmates to a then new musical called the Godspell in downtown Chicago.  It was a contemporary musical based on the stories of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. 

Near the end of the play, after the Crucifixion, the actors who played the disciples of Jesus, carried the body of Jesus, left the stage, dramatically walking into the audience, singing "Lone Live God!

But what I heard first was different. Very different indeed. You could say that due to my poor English, my hearing, or both. But it sounded to me as they marched and sang was "Lonely God!"  

And it struck me ever since - the theme of the lonely God. 

From the very first story of the Old Testament throughout the history of the Christian Church - Has God not been lonely most of the time? 

Who cared what God said or did? The loving covenant of God often repeated again and again as if He is only making noise and who actually listened or cared?

God was, is and always will be.

Without us, God was, is and always will be lonely too...  

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