Love comes easy at Christmas, in the story of the birth of a vulnerable baby Jesus. It’s a good place to start, with Jesus, but there is more to know. The Jesus of the Gospels often challenges, standing in defiance of a world which refused to know him. And Jesus also challenges us today. As his disciples, we learn all we can, keeping our hearts open to the Jesus we find in scripture but also open to the Jesus who calls us to learn to love as he did. The “Way of Love” is to LEARN to love as boldly as Jesus.
‘Learning to Love’: Advent Communion Service for the international students from Uganda and Eswatini (Swaziland) studying at Chung Chou University of Science & Technology 中州科技大學, Yuanlin 員林市, central Taiwan, led by Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou, December 7, 2020
“Do not quench the Spirit!” Paul says. The Spirit, ever present, ever mischievous, is constantly trying to catch our attention, using all those human moments – joy, nostalgia, boredom, exhaustion, wonder – to tap us on the shoulder and say, “pay attention to me!” Our response, whether it’s with excitement or annoyance, is called Prayer.
Pay attention, we’re here!
This is us, this is Taiwan!
Pray for us, pray for Taiwan!
Rev. Simon T. S. Tsou with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry @ St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, February 21, 2020
I read once that our worship must flow out of true selves and engage our spirit as we pursue truth, and yet so much about how we conduct worship often can feel as if we are putting on pretense – as if we are dressing up to play people who worship, instead of just being people who are worship-filled just as we are – messy, or tired; confused, or content. In a season that is ripe with dressing up, I wonder how we can bring our true selves and engage our spirits as we pursue the truth of incarnation in our lives.
Pray for those on the Taiwan Episcopal Church internship program, a year of learning, praying, discovering & discerning 😇 Yan-Xuan (centre) & Yu-Lin (right) are in the middle of their year, Chia-Lin (left) completed hers in the summer, and is now at Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong. They are all so very lovely! 😊
Photo taken on July 25, 2020, St. James’ Church, Taichung.
God has sent us to “bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” Even Jesus suggested, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
What surrounds my rest? Am I tired, exhausted even, from the spirit of God being on me, from following and from being sent? Do I deserve this rest? This quiet place? Even here resting, am I anticipating waking to acting with compassion?
Switching off for a few moments! 😴 One of our clergy takes a quick rest after lunch @ Diocese of Taiwan Annual Convention, August 15, 2020 😴 Gotta smile ~ that’s just a piece of green A4 paper folded up, with his face-mask underneath ~ so creative, so practical! 😇
And while you’re resting, check out this newly-released Nativity video by the children of Grasmere School in the Lake District, UK, set in a Covid-19 era, it’s just great ~ I love it!
The seven practices of the Way of Love are often interconnected. To practice go, we add words frequently. Go and preach. Go and serve. Go and listen. Go and praise. Go and pray. In our ways of faith following Jesus, we must find the courage to move beyond our communities and comfortable relationships to unknown places. Doing that work takes practice; I don’t know many people who flourish when pushed into unknown situations….
In the path of my heart this Advent, I’m crossing the barrier that says light and darkness are white and black. When God chose to bring the light of the world to earth on a night in Bethlehem in Mary’s womb, God made it clear that light and darkness cannot exist without each other. Too much of one and little of the other withers and destroys. Deepening ourselves in our hearts may result in the need to shine a light in unseen and unknown cracks. We can only do this after taking time to adjust our vision to the dark to see what our hearts have hidden, so that when the lights turn on and leave us without sight for a while, we remember where to look.
Just one more photo before you go!
Saying farewell to our students on Graduation Day @ Advent Church, St. John’s University, June 20, 2020. To get the stained glass artwork in the picture, the only way is to lie on the floor!
The Promised Land flows with milk and honey – how sweet it is. Like Pooh Bear, I love “sweet” and “Sweet Jesus” appeals to me. But as I ponder this, things get sticky very fast.
“Sweet Jesus” is not a popular term in many churches. “The sated appetite spurns honey, but to a ravenous appetite even the bitter is sweet”(Prov. 27:7). Want honey? Follow bees. Want Heaven? Follow Beatitudes.
Fed-up people have little use for a Sweet Jesus, one who feeds hungry people merely because they are hungry and loved. Child-souls love Pooh and honey – and Jesus – because they sweeten many bitter circumstances.
❤️ The sweetest couple in Advent Church!❤️
This is our senior warden, Ming-Chuan and his lovely wife, Meng-Zhen, who have carried much of the responsibility for the smooth running of Advent Church in the interregnum – since our rector, Lennon Y. R. Chang moved on to become bishop in February. This responsibility included organizing the annual diocesan convention, which was held at Advent Church on August 15, 2020 – this photo was taken that day. Since then, Ming-Chuan has faced very serious health challenges, but his faith remains strong, his testimony is vibrant and he continues serving as senior warden, well-supported by Meng-Zhen ~ and by us all. They are both just so wonderful and we all love ’em to bits ~ please do pray for them both! ❤️
A singular word can change the world. The Word created us, and it comes to us in flesh through Jesus; it has been given to you and me. If we do not listen carefully, we can miss it being spoken to us. If we do not embody and share it ourselves, we miss the opportunity to be transformed and to bring transformation. This world yearns for a word. This world yearns for a messenger. This world yearns for you. May we accept the call this day, to receive that Word, to embody it, and, most importantly, to share it.
Presentation from then Bishop-Elect Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the eve of his consecration, February 21, 2020 ~ the gift of a traditional Chinese scroll, specially commissioned for the occasion by one of Bishop Chang’s former classmates. The words at the top of the actual scroll read right to left ~ here written left to right: 愛是永不止息 from 1 Cor. 13:8, translated as ‘Love never fails.’
Much like John the Baptist, it seems as if we are currently living in the wilderness waiting and preparing ourselves to be faithfully transformed by Jesus. And although this transformation may be filled with uncertainty and fear, John is calling us to trust, to turn back to the source of life and forgiveness, to renew our commitment to strive for justice and peace. As we journey into this new season out of the wilderness, let us receive Christ’s love and grace in our hearts and strengthen the bonds we share with each other through our baptism.
Sleeping peacefully after his baptism a few minutes earlier, this is Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang’s youngest grandchild receiving a blessing at the Holy Communion on Sunday January 12, 2020. He was the last person to be baptized in Advent Church by his grandfather as rector – just before his grandfather’s consecration as bishop in February. Pray for Bishop Chang’s family and all clergy families at this time, especially those who may feel that the ‘wilderness’ has become a permanent feature of their lives.
Sometimes this word confines us as a small measure of what we require or are able to give. In thinking about mercy, we so frequently have our own narrow needs and restricted limits.
Yet God’s mercy is boundless, amazingly so, reaching out, beyond anything that we can imagine, to embrace and to forgive. And as we experience it, fresh and full every day, our hearts expand in response to the miraculous gift that changes everything.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness! (Lam 3:22-23)
Celebrating 50 years of God’s mercy, grace and love at St. James’ Church, Taichung! Rev. Charles C. T.. Chen, rector emeritus, Rev. Lily L. L. Chang, rector and Ms. Luanne Y. J. Chiu, St. James’ Preschool supervisor cut the 50th anniversary cake on St James’ Day, July 25, 2020.
And Happy Birthday too to Charles Chen – celebrating his 85th birthday tomorrow, December 10!
Patience is that reminder that we are not in control, that our lives do not always happen according to our schedule. The experiences of the prophets, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and Magi remind us that we exist in God’s time. Living in kairos time requires our prayer, our attention and most certainly our patience as we recognize God’s presence, as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives.
All eyes on Canon Mark! This is Canon Mark Stevenson, canon to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry – and very well-deserving of a special gold medal in the Patience department! In charge of all the arrangements for Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang’s consecration service on February 22, 2020 in St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei, this is him leading the rehearsal the day before. To get to this point we had corresponded in 99 emails (yes 99 – and counting!) and he always answered our questions promptly, kindly and wisely…. Thanks Canon Mark!