‘When I think about the ministry of Jesus, often the first thing that comes to mind is that he was a preacher and teacher. When I was an elementary school teacher, I always looked forward to my students having a “lightbulb moment”—the moment when a concept they had struggled with suddenly became clear. Jesus was an extremely patient teacher. I imagine he would delight in the “lightbulb moments” he helped facilitate through his teaching. When have you experienced a “lightbulb moment?”
‘Exquisite Pain‘ by Damien Hirst at St. Bartholomew-the-Great’s Church (Great St. Barts), London’s oldest surviving church – adjoins St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (Barts) of the same foundation, one of London’s most famous teaching hospitals.
‘St Bartholomew was one of Jesus’ Apostles, who went to Armenia to preach the Gospel, where he was tortured to death by being skinned alive.
Damien Hirst uses the traditional imagery of the saint (which you can see in the Sistine Chapel and Milan Cathedral, for example) – holding his skin over his arm, clutching the knife that tortured him – but gave it a twist special to St Bartholomew’s Church and Hospital: the body is based on an anatomical model and the knife is a scalpel.
“I like the confusion you get between science and religion… that’s where belief lies and art as well.”‘ Damien Hurst
‘In pandemic times, one of the best ways to stay healthy is in isolation. But in every other circumstance, separating ourselves is a path toward unhealth—physically, mentally, and certainly spiritually. We need to be together. Binding ourselves to each other pushes away fear and despair, and together we discover more courage and hopefulness. In coming together, we unlock creativity and joy. In this season of preparation, we remember that God desires to be together with us, so much so that Christ came to walk alongside us and to live among us.’ (Katherine Bush)
‘WE’ by Jaume Plensa 2021, The Shard, London Bridge
“I call it ‘WE’ because I’ve been using alphabets from different cultures, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Cyrillic, Hindi and Latin. A group of letters alone means nothing, A-B-C-D-E, they are like cells that in collaboration with others become a text. It’s a beautiful metaphor about community, about society… ‘WE’ comprises two parts – one installed in The Shard’s piazza, one suspended above the escalator outside the building – facing each other as if in dialogue. The piece is designed to give members of the public a chance to frame their individual perspectives, as they walk through Shard Quarter, taking in one figure, followed by the other. By establishing a link between the two, they will be inspired to consider the notion of self, alongside the people around them.”
‘The very first journey to the manger begins, not with passive waiting, but with a walk. Imagine the pure physicality of that walk: a heavily pregnant Mary and a weary Joseph place one sore, dusty foot in front of the other, mile after mile. Mary plants each foot carefully, lest she slip and harm her child. Like Mary and Joseph, we embark upon a journey today. Let us walk with God through Advent, mindfully and intentionally, with our hearts and minds open to all the possibilities this expectant season brings.’ (Anita Philbrick)
Today is Advent Sunday, and the start of Advent Word, a project of The Episcopal Church, with an ‘AdventWord’ shared each day and a short meditation on that word. From my visit to London last week, I hope to share a photo with you appropriate for each day’s AdventWord.
Today, February 28 is a public holiday in Taiwan for Peace Memorial Day, this year commemorating the 75th anniversary of the 228 incident in 1947, which marked the beginning of the White Terror era. Today also, a ‘host of golden daffodils’ has bloomed in Yangmingshan National Park after 2 months of endless rain, and are smiling up at blue skies, like the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Daffodils are also known as Lenten Lilies, reminding us that Lent starts this week on Ash Wednesday, and lasts for 40 days until Easter. This Lent, let us pray for peace in Taiwan, peace in Ukraine and peace with our neighbours whoever they may be.
Daffodils are also the national flower of Wales, so Happy St. David’s Day for tomorrow, March 1. And if you’re in Taipei, now that the rain has finally stopped, get yourself up to Yangmingshan to see them, they’re stunning!
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day24: This is the very lovely Cai-Pei 采沛, just arriving now at St. John’s University (SJU), and all ready for her baptism during tonight’s Christmas Eve service ~ and she gets the largest Teddy Bear chocolate in the Advent Calendar! Ah, she’s so happy! She comes every Sunday to Advent Church from her home in Taoyuan, having graduated last year from SJU in Creative Design, a classmate and good friend of Yi-Ting who works on our SJU Chaplaincy staff and the one who originally invited her to join the student fellowship. They also did their senior project together on the theme of Advent Church, designing and making a wonderful welcome video, cards and a book, all now featured on the Advent Church website.
Like Jia-Wei, who is also being baptized tonight, Cai-Pei is the first (and so far only) Christian in her family. She says she’s still waiting for the right moment to tell her family of her decision. Like many of our recently-graduated students, she’s finding it difficult to find a permanent job in her chosen field, design. Please do pray for her and her family, her search for a job, and her new-found Christian faith. Thanks be to God, and to you all for your prayers ~ and joyful greetings to you all this Christmas Eve! 🕯️🕯️
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day23: This is Melissa, second-year student of Creative Design at St. John’s University (SJU), also one of the leadership team of the Student Fellowship and in charge of tonight’s Christmas outreach event, the colours for which are blue, grey and white ~ the photo is taken against the stunning back wall they’ve designed for the occasion! She’s really amazing at leading worship, singing, dancing, design, art and music ~ in fact, she seems to be multi-talented in everything, and is such a blessing to our student fellowship. In the elections on December 30 for next year’s student fellowship leadership team, Melissa is expected to be the only candidate for the position of chair, so it’s looking like she could be the one!
Melissa is from Sabah, East Malaysia, brought up in Labuan until the age of 12, when she moved with her family eastwards across Sabah to Sandakan, where they joined their relatives as members of Good Shepherd Anglican Church. It’s really exciting for us to have someone from the Anglican Diocese of Sabah at SJU because our 2 dioceses have long been connected. Both Taiwan and Sabah dioceses have a strong kindergarten ministry, ours led by Mrs. Grace Liu (wife of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu), who arranged about 15 years ago for 2 kindergarten teachers from Sabah, Evelyn and Yvette to come for about 6 weeks to St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung. We all became friends, and in return I visited them in Sabah, including a trip to see Yvette at Good Shepherd Kindergarten, Sandakan. We had such a great time ~ and now it turns out that Yvette and Melissa are friends from the worship team and choir at Good Shepherd Church. Ah, it’s a small world!
Melissa asks for prayer as she prepares for the possibility of taking over the leadership of SJU Student Fellowship for the coming year. She needs a lot of wisdom, patience and courage, as well as time and energy to be a good chairperson and also keep up with her studies. Please do pray for her!
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day22: This is 2-year-old Ethan, in his reindeer hat, in thoughtful pose ~ ah, we love him so much! He and his baby sister Eva keep us all entertained at our monthly diocesan office lunch gatherings in Taipei – including the one today. Ethan has won the hearts of all the diocesan office staff and all the visitors!
Ethan’s mother, Sheerah is from Ipoh, West Malaysia, and for many years worked as their diocesan children’s worker. In 2010, she came with a diocesan team to lead ‘Kids Games’ training in Advent Church, and we’ve all kept in touch ever since. Now she’s living in Taipei with her family, and we all really look forward to seeing them every month.
Ethan is in regular touch with his grandparents in Malaysia, but it’s not the same as seeing them in person, and they have never met baby Eva, who was born in June. The family would love to go back for a visit but the pandemic makes travel so difficult. They ask for your prayers for the grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, especially for their health. Yes Sheerah and I share the same surname, we’re both part of the worldwide Lee family!
They also ask for your prayers for West Malaysia, facing severe flooding at present ~ St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral, KL was flooded up to knee-height last weekend, so all services were cancelled. It’s a worrying time, please do pray for them all, and especially in this Christmas season.
#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day21: Good News! 好消息! Remember Jia-Wei 嘉偉 from Hong Kong who featured here on #Day2? He’s one of our students in the St. John’s University (SJU) Student Fellowship, and he’d said he really hoped to be baptized on Christmas Eve, but needed courage to first ask his family. With time moving on and Christmas Eve approaching fast, he finally summoned up the courage to talk to his family last night ~ and rather to his surprise and great delight, his father agrees with his decision, saying that as Jia-Wei is an adult, so he’s free to choose his own religion. YES! 😇
So in great thanksgiving to God ~ and to everyone for your prayers ~ we assembled a group photo of some of Jia-Wei’s ‘Support Team’ at lunch time today ~ all members of the student fellowship, who’ve encouraged and prayed for him throughout his time in Taiwan. As he said, he and his family don’t know any Christians in Hong Kong, and the first ones he himself got to know were here in the SJU Student Fellowship. Thanks be to God ~ and please do pray for Jia-Wei as he prepares for his baptism on Christmas Eve!