Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Liturgical Colour of Lent is NOT "Drab"

After teaching my 8 a.m. class this morning, this is the scene that greeted me as I walked down the 121 steps from the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Hong Kong.  It seems too beautiful for Lent, but maybe the Lord of Creation doesn't consider "drab" an appropriate liturgical color.

I think Jesus noted the vibrancy of the road as he walked in & out of Jerusalem, and finally to His appointment with the cross.   The quick movements of the children at play,   the piercing cry of the one  wailing over a death in the family, the bright red of the blood of the temple sacrifice, the splash of water in a woman's pail.

All these are part of the sights, sounds, and smells along the road; and everywhere there is beauty -  this broken beauty which He came to redeem.

Why 121 steps? For the 121st Psalm:

I lift up my eyes unto the hills... 
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday and incense sticks at the foot of the Big Buddha


We walked around Lantau Island yesterday, watching the colorful ways in which people lit incense, burned paper offerings to the ancestors, and bowed to various stone and ceramic images, in hope, no doubt, for a more prosperous year ahead (we are still celebrating the New Year of the Tiger, all week long)

Meanwhile, we Christians are beginning a different faith practice, the 40 days of Lent, in preparation for the event which we believe shows God's overwhelming power and love for each and every human being on this earth:   the sacrificial death of God's Son on a cross, and then the resurrection of that Son in glory and joy.

May your lenten journey be filled with thought,  heightened consciousness, and hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Remember you are dust and to dust you will return" (from the words spoken at the imposition of ashes in the Ash Wednesday Liturgy)

  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! -- Paul in his Letter to the Romans 7:24

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Lunar New Year of the Tiger

Happy Lunar New Year of the Tiger!   Happy Valentine's Day!  Happy Transfiguration Sunday!  Happy Birthday to my 86 year old Mutti back home in Wisconsin.  

On Monday I went to the flower market, battled the incredible crowds, and scored some daffodil bulbs, pussy willows, and three pieces of lucky bamboo. Here are some of the scenes of the day: 
On Wednesday  I handed out "lai see" packets to the 16 Hong Kong, Laotian, Cambodian, Mainland Chinese, Scottish, Myanmar and Cameroonian students in my Pastoral Formation 100 class up at the seminary.  Were they really so delighted because of the little packets (filled with chocolate coins and a suitable New Year's Bible verse) or because it meant that my looooong lecture was somewhat shortened that day?

On Friday we were invited to the home of one of our Hong Kong students, where we feasted on roast pig (yes, the whole thing, ears and all appeared on the table), oysters, mushrooms, Chinese greens, and (a first for me) pickled quail eggs.  It was magnificent.

Today, Sunday, I preached on the Transfiguration of Jesus, his shining face revealing mysteries beyond mysteries, and God's voice once again, saying, "Listen to Him!"

And so we do, this New Year of the Tiger, marking our second lunar New Year on Chinese soil.  Wayne and I are trying to listen to Jesus, and find his voice speaking  in fresh ways everyday.

 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;  therefore I will wait for him."
 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,  to the one who seeks him; -- Lamentations 3:21f

Happy Valentine's Day!  Happy Lunar year of the Tiger!  Happy Transfiguration Sunday! And Happy Birthday Mutti, back in the good old USA!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pneumatology, & Vietnamese Cooking

He & Van, a husband-wife seminary couple from Vietnam called us up and said they'd like to cook us a meal.  A Vietnamese meal.  Naturally we said Yes! and were surprised when they arrived, shooed us out of our minuscule kitchen, and proceeded to make magic out of the armloads of cabbage, carrots, chicken, lettuce, peanuts, and mint-leaves which they had picked up at the local markets.

Wayne and I took a leisurely stroll, and when we returned a few hours later, we had an elaborate and delicious dinner waiting for us.

He (yes that's his name - "HE") is a doctoral student in Theology, with an emphasis on Pneumatology.  We had a spirited (!) discussion (was the breath breathed into Adam in the book of Genesis actually God's Holy Spirit?  Can non-Christians have any part of the gift of the Holy Spirit?  Can our own breathing be thought of as a way in which the Holy Spirit is present within us, or does the Holy Spirit only come with the conscious, verbal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord? )

We disagreed on some pretty important issues (which would make sense, given our vastly different life experiences as well as the fact that we come from very different denominational backgrounds).

But the evening was a  gift from God, and the Holy Spirit was surely present, as we  enjoyed our meal and were  challenged by the conversation, all of us carrying Christ's name.

 4 The Spirit of God has made me;
       the breath of the Almighty gives me life. 
-- Job 33:4

7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
 9"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.     -- Gospel of John 3:7-9

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Not So Fabulous Friday

It was a significantly less than fabulous Friday at the Lutheran School today.
The boys in the morning small group "enrichment" session were monsters and cared very little for learning about Moses in the basket, but when I turned the page of the children's Bible to a picture of some shirtless Egyptian soldiers, this sent them into peals of uncontrollable laughter, and they all started pulling up their shirts to show off their own belly buttons.  I was not particularly amused by that today.

The sixth grade girls were supposed to be practicing rote answers to questions on their upcoming "English interviews" for entrance into secondary school, and they were not the least interested in the difference between "I am playing badmitten" and I play badmitten".  Then they started taunting the one girl whose English is a little more hesitant than the rest.  This girl is very shy, and small, and walks with a limp, and I was kind of shocked with myself for just wanting to slap them. I didn't, you'll be happy to know, but I wanted to.

And then, for the grand finale of the day,  less than half way through the second graders' phonics review session, one very quiet little girl very quietly vomited all over the table and floor.   It's true, we were practicing blending the letters  U-u-u-u-u-u- and P-p-p-p-p-p.  But I meant "arms UP" and "stand UP" not "throw UP".

Total chaos insued, we had to move the class next door, but since there was no computer projector set up, nor a CD player for my carefully planned lesson with music, we had to resort to finishing the class with... you guessed it, yet another round of "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed."  A cappella.

It was, once again,  a big hit.  We wished each other a "Happy Lunar New Year" (no school next Friday!) and I think everyone is really looking forward to the week we all get off  for the upcoming Year of the Tiger.

I hope I will have more energy next year.

"You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus;"  Paul, cheering on Timothy in his work of teaching & pastoring,  Second Letter to Timothy, chapter two verse one