Category Archives: Faith

Advent Word, Day 4 ‘listen’

Day 4 #listen #聆聽 Wednesday November 30

‘On the cross, exposed and vulnerable, Jesus draws the whole world in a loving embrace. Everything hangs, everyone is held here. Jesus holds the people of Charlestown and Ferguson and Baltimore and all around the globe. Jesus listens to the grieving and grappling, the terrorized and troubled, the frightened and crying. Jesus listens to all the heartache, all the questions. On the cross Jesus bears the weight, the weight of the world, holding us all in his wounded hands’.

被釘在十字架上,那軟弱之身毫無遮掩的耶穌,吸引著全世界進入祂愛的懷抱。所有的人、事、物都蒙受祂的擁抱及關懷,包括居住在查爾斯敦、佛格森、巴爾的摩,還有其他各地的人,他們的悲傷、苦悶、驚恐、困擾、害怕、以及呼求,耶穌都聽見了。耶穌聽取每位傷痛者的心聲,也聆聽我們一切的問題。在十字架上,耶穌擔負世人的重擔,祂那被釘傷的雙手,還緊緊握住我們所有人。

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Photo taken at 國立臺灣美術館 Taichung Art Museum

Advent Word, Day 3 ‘renew’

Day 3 #renew #更新 Tuesday November 29

‘Christ is all in all. He is here symbolically in a stone altar. He is here sacramentally in bread and wine. He is here spiritually in hearts lifted up and returned to us renewed, transformed, consecrated’.

基督無所不在。祂在具有象徵意義的聖壇這裡,祂在聖餐禮所用的餅、酒這裡,祂在每一個屬靈的人心裡—-這些人的心,都因祂而提升、更新、轉化,分別為聖。

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Advent Sunday 2016 at Advent Church, St. John’s University, Taiwan!

Advent Word, Day 2 ‘love’

Day 2 #love #愛 Monday November 28

‘Falling in love is one of the most profoundly spiritual experiences a person can have. By falling in love we discover our capacity for selflessness. We experience what it means to entrust ourselves, our souls and bodies, to another. When we fall in love as God does, we too will ultimately “stretch out [our] arms of love on the hard wood of the cross,” just as Jesus did’.

「戀愛」(墜入情網)可能是一個人最深刻的心靈體會。透過戀愛,我們發現自己擁有一種無私、忘我的精神:在身、心各方面,都把自己交託給對方。當我們能像「神愛世人」那樣,墜入「愛」中,我們就能效法耶穌,「在無情的十字架上,張開愛的雙手」。

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Photo taken at the Juming Museum a few weeks ago….

Advent Word, Day 1 ‘shine’

Today is Advent Sunday!  The first day of Advent Word 2016, a project supported by the Anglican Communion.

Day 1: ‘shine’ 光輝 Sunday November 27

‘Rather than experiencing the sorrows of our world as a source of desolation, hear the news as a clarion call, as motivation and clarification for what we are to be about as followers of Jesus Christ: to bear the beams of God’s love and light and life, especially to those who wouldn’t otherwise know it’.

與其把世界的悲傷視為荒涼之源,不如聽取福音信息。聽那到感人的號召,受其激勵、淨化,而成為耶穌基督的真信徒:披戴上帝的愛、光明、生命,並將這美好光輝傳揚四方,尤其傳給那些還在幽暗中「茫然不知所之」的人。

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Meet Little Shine, the beloved grandson of Jerry and Jean, devoted church members of St. James’ Church, Taichung, where Jerry is one of the leaders of the English Congregation. Jerry has also kindly translated all the Advent Word meditations into Mandarin Chinese. Little Shine’s Chinese name is 益宣, Yi-Xuan, and as ‘xuan’ ‘宣’ (meaning ‘to declare or proclaim’) sounds a little like ‘shine’, so he is known as Little Shine, and his shining face and sparkling eyes bring great delight to us all!

Just Married! Many Congratulations to Yi-Chia 鄒宜家 and Si-Han 陳思翰 on their Wedding Day ~ and it all started in Boston!

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Our beloved Teacher Tiger’s big day ~ YES!  And yes, we call her Teacher Tiger (well, after all she was born in the Year of the Tiger!), otherwise she’s known as Yi-Chia 宜家, and in fact that’s what our friends in Boston call her.  Yesterday was a very big day for her and her brand new husband Shawn ~ Si-Han 思翰, and what a lovely couple they are!

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IMG_0136Yi-Chia’s family are all members of ‘The Church in Taipei’, YongHe Branch 新北市召會永和區一會所, affiliated to the ‘Local Churches‘ Movement or ‘The Little Flock’, which was started in the 1930’s in Mainland China by Watchman Nee, and in Taiwan from 1949 onwards by Witness Lee. Interestingly Watchman Nee started his education in a CMS (Church Mission Society – that’s me!) school in China, and was quite influenced by CMS people throughout his life.  Ah, connections!

Yi-Chia teaches in our St. James’ Preschool, Taichung ~ where I was for 7 years from 1999-2006 – she arrived after I left, but she arrived at a key time.  We had just started linking up with Cambridge-Ellis School (CES), Boston, USA and over time that link has developed into a full sister-school partnership, of which I am part of the liaison team from St. James. In 2012, Yi-Chia went to CES for a year as part of our exchange programme, and one of the activities arranged for her was daily English classes at a local college in Boston.  Boom! Not only did she learn plenty of great English, but it was at that college that she met Si-Han.  Both are from Taipei.  But they met in Boston!

Yesterday was their wedding day, YES!  I had the honour of attending the wedding celebration at their church in Yonghe, Taipei at 9:00am, and speaking on behalf of St. James’ Preschool to share a little about their story and the Boston connection, and to offer congratulations and best wishes to them both.  So easy to do, as Yi-Chia and Si-Han are both such wonderful people!

It was my very first experience of a wedding celebration in a Local Church, and it was very moving.  Both Yi-Chia and Si-Han shared their joint testimony, kind of one sentence each at a time, and much of it centred around how Si-Han had come to faith in Christ since knowing Yi-Chia, and how he was baptized almost exactly a year ago, and has now become a member of the Local Church ~ and all this because he genuinely came to faith, not just because he fell in love with a lovely Christian girl!  God is good, and it’s quite a story!

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The 6 elders of the church all spoke from their hearts and shared verses from the Bible, words of wisdom, blessing and thanksgiving ~ also the father of the groom, and the father of the bride – who had everyone laughing away, and here he is, below!

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We also sang a special hymn, chosen by the couple. The most important part of the service was right near the end, when the 6 elders and the bride and groom knelt down in a close group, and the elders laid hands on the bride and groom and prayed for them and for God’s blessings on their marriage.  Both in their sharing and in their praying, the elders showed such passion, joy and eloquence, speaking from their hearts, moved by the Holy Spirit, and the congregation responded frequently with shouts of ‘Amen’.  It was humbling, joyful, worshipful and awe-inspiring!

The couple had been the day before to officially register their marriage, so the next step was lunch, and then they had a whole day of celebrations to follow, with the wedding banquet in the evening,  for which a coachload of teachers and friends from St. James were coming.  It being Easter Eve, I was to be back at Advent Church, but I was delighted to attend the wedding service, along with some of our St. James’ teachers, their boyfriends, and the groom’s friends too ~ here we all are, the ‘Friends’ group!

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A very big Thank You to all the church members and the families of the bride and groom for their very warm welcome and their friendly greetings, much appreciated!

And many congratulations, best wishes and God’s richest blessings to Yi-Chia and Si-Han on your marriage ~ yes, may God bless you both greatly and your new life together, Amen!

Reconciling the World with God: Holy Week and Easter Reflection

It’s Maundy Thursday, and there’s an air of anticipation in our chaplain’s office here at St. John’s University as our students get ready for the service tonight ~ many have volunteered to take part in the foot-washing, and they’re excited!

Excitement in Holy Week?! OK, it’s also the birthday of the leader of the student fellowship, and they’re all trying to keep their plans secret, but he knows something’s afoot and, well, we’ll just wait and see what happens!

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While I was in the UK last year, I was given a copy of the CMS publication, ‘365 Days of Yes’, subtitled ‘Daily Prayers and Readings for a Missional People’ (2012).  Yes, I admit the bright and beautiful cover was the key attraction, but having got it back to Taiwan, the next challenge was to start using it. So on January 1 this year, I dutifully launched forth on a whole year of readings and prayers.  And y’know, I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s really quite good!

A big surprise was to come across my own name in the book a few days ago with a story from one of my past CMS Link Letters.  But an even bigger surprise was to come when I looked ahead to the reading for Easter Day; unbelievably CMS has chosen another one of my stories.  And I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and spent some time looking up the original story.  Turns out, the original was a reflection I included in my Link Letter in May 2008, which started as an experience I had during a church service on February 17, 2008 during my first – and so far only – visit to New Zealand.

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On February 23, 2008, our church here at St. John’s University, Taiwan, held a special Thanksgiving Service for the new stained glass that had been installed in the church roof over the previous few months.  The stained glass depicts Christ the Light of the Dawn, inspired by the name of the church, Advent Church, and the association of Advent with the coming of Christ and the light that He brings into the world.  The glass is eight-sided, as is the baptismal pool at the main entrance to the church.  Numbers are important in Taiwan.  Our chaplain and rector, Rev. Lennon Chang is also Professor of Mathematics here at St. John’s University and his specialty and great passion is Calculus, so he loves to explain the significance of different numbers. Eight (八 Pinyin: bā) is an auspicious number in Chinese culture (which is why the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm local time) and the digit 8 also matches the mathematical symbol of infinity ∞.  In the Bible, the eighth day of creation was the first full day of the newly-created world, and circumcision was traditionally carried out on the eighth day.  New creation, new beginnings, new hearts!

It’s now 8 years since I was in New Zealand, 8 years since the stained glass was installed and dedicated in Advent Church, and 8 years since I wrote the following reflection:

Reflection for Holy Week and Easter 2008

“Over Chinese New Year, I had the opportunity to visit New Zealand. On the last Sunday I joined my friends for worship in their home church in Paraparaumu (that’ll test your Maori pronunciation!). The church itself is built right next to a small airport, used mainly by light aircraft. The large window behind the altar was of clear glass, and through the window there was a view of trees, hills and sky.

That Sunday morning, as we were praying the final post-communion prayer (the one where we are sent out into the world in the power of the Spirit, to live and work to God’s praise and glory), suddenly through that altar window I saw in the distance a helicopter plummeting head-first towards the ground, followed by pieces of wreckage. The few of us in the congregation who saw it knew that a crash was inevitable, with almost certain death for the pilot. Later we discovered that a light plane had collided in mid-air with the helicopter, both then crashed onto neighbouring houses and shops, and all three people onboard died.

Six days later, I was back in Taiwan, and attending the Thanksgiving Service for the new stained glass. The artwork is magnificent, full of blues, yellows and reds; with a Jacob’s ladder sculpture hanging down towards the altar from the centre.  The altar itself is of marble, and usually left bare, reminding us of the stone that Jacob slept on when he had his dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder. The top of the sculpture, the flat part of the ceiling, is covered in mirrors, giving an impression of never-ending ladders, going on and on, up and up into eternity.  The whole artwork vividly depicts the glory of God and the light of Christ, with the ladders calling us to come closer to God in prayer, joining heaven and earth in one glorious whole.

What a huge contrast between those two images. One glass window invites us to look out at the world; the other invites us to look up at the glory of God.  Through one window I saw images of death and destruction; in another I saw images of the glory of God and light of Christ. Holy Week and Easter!  Yet in both church services I heard words of how God sends us to take His light out into the dark world, and I also heard words of invitation to bring the concerns of the world to Him in prayer.  We are indeed called to do both, to do our part in reconciling the world with God, and God with the world.”

I can still remember that helicopter crash and that service, in fact my New Zealand friends reminded me about it only a few weeks ago. There’s an official account of it here. I remember the gasp of shock and horror which echoed round the church from the few of us who had our eyes open and saw what happened.  The others who saw it were mostly the youth group who were sitting up high on the balcony at the back of the church.  I remember the news reports at the time and the tragic images of the crash site, and I remember the vicar calling later to ask if I was OK.  It was tragic, horrific and kind of bizarre all rolled into one.

And now we’re in Holy Week 2016, and sadly death and destruction once again dominate the news reports. Our screens are filled with tragic tales of grief and despair, of missing loved ones, of broken hearts and shattered lives in the city of Brussels, the heart of the European Union.  Our hearts and prayers go out to them all.  We do not understand why and how people could willingly bring about such death and destruction.  All we can do is to cry, pray and plead with God for mercy, justice and peace to prevail.  All we can do is to hold onto the promise of Easter, the promise of the resurrection, of death being conquered, of new life in Christ, of reconciliation with a loving God who cries with us in the pain and the brokenness.

In ‘A Maryknoll Book of Inspiration’ (Orbis 2010) the reading for today, March 24, is from ‘The Violence of Love’ by archbishop and martyr Oscar Romero (assassinated during Mass on March 24, 1980, his feast day has since been declared as March 24) ~ ‘Everyone can contribute much that is good, and in that way trust is achieved.  The common good will not be attained by excluding people. We can’t enrich the common good of our country by driving out those we don’t care for. We have to try to bring out all that is good in each person and try to develop an atmosphere of trust, not with physical force, but with a moral force that draws out the good that is in everyone, especially in concerned young people. Thus with all contributing all can build the beautiful structure of the common good, the good that we construct together, and that creates conditions of kindness, of trust, of freedom, of peace.’

And so the reading for Easter Day in the ‘365 Days of Yes’ finishes with the prayer, ‘Lord, on this resurrection day, send us out again, inspired, refreshed, renewed to do our part in reconciling the world to you. Amen’.

Amen indeed, and blessings for Holy Week and Easter to you all.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Church of England’s Holy Week and Easter short film of Psalm 22….

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me ?” The words spoken by Jesus on the Cross from Psalm 22 inspired our new JustPray video for Easter. The film follows on from The Lord’s Prayer advert launched by the Church last Christmas which was banned by cinemas for its religious content.

The stars of the film have struggled with drug addiction, crime and homelessness on their journey to faith. Find out more about their stories here: http://www.justpray.uk/Psalm%2022/  Visit www.justpray.uk to learn more about prayer and to share your own prayers.

So do check the Just Pray website here and especially the background stories of the people in the film, and their Saturday Night Gathering…. brilliant!

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity @ Taipei

Last night was a very beautiful, very ecumenical Taizé Service for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, organized by the National Council of Churches of Taiwan (NCCT), and held in 台灣基督長老教會汐止教會 Xizhi Presbyterian Church, on the outskirts of eastern Taipei – and served by the train line to Keelung….

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This year’s theme is “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord” (1 Peter 2:9).

Praying for Christian Unity around the world, in Taiwan, and in all our hearts and minds this coming year.