Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maundy Thursday: An Eternal Buzz?

Do you see the bees?  There are two of them, along with hundreds of their sisters and dozens of butterflies, the whirring of wings all covering, hovering, shimmering, and pollinating the enormous lychee trees in our yard here in Hong Kong.

It's the Thursday before Easter, called Maundy Thursday in liturgical tradition, but which I grew up calling by its German name, Gr√ľndonnerstag or Green Thursday.  In most of the inhabited world, the earth is greening about now.  My farming forefathers and mothers would have been harvesting the earliest garden produce: asparagus, spinach, scallions.  In tropical climates, the dry season is ending; in the northern world, spring has come.

In the church calendar we celebrate an event today, which we Christians believe forever pierced through, and changed the cyclical rhythms of life and death and life and death again.  The whirring of wings on this day corresponds to a heavenly disruption, as Jesus held out a chalice, for even his betrayer to drink.  Jesus broke some bread, and insisted that those who eat this bread, will live on in a shimmering eternity.

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
                                           -- Jesus, quoted in John's Gospel 6:51

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lutheran School Angels

I almost didn't go to the Ma On Shan school this morning.  I was coughing in the night and woke up bleary eyed, lying in bed an extra moment trying to decide, should I just stay in bed today?  After all, they don't really need me, do they?

But a commitment is a commitment, so I girded up my loins (ah-hem, so to speak) and got myself to the school.  Who knew that a bevy of angels would be awaiting me?  It turns out that the church women's group meets every Friday morning, and I've never been alert enough to notice them before, but there they were. They had come to find me and insisted I have some breakfast with them (although it was nearly eleven in the morning... ok, full disclosure, I got myself to school but I got there a lot later than usual :)

The first photo is taken before they had fully composed themselves for the picture, but I thought they looked so jolly, I wanted to show you all.  (The breakfast noodles & rice were delicious, I must say, and I had a big plateful.) For the second picture, they insisted I should stand with them, but most of them look quite serious about standing with the "mooksi" (the Cantonese word for "pastor".  Yes, that's me in the middle there).  And then they left me with a bag of "money" which was perfect for my lesson this morning:  The second graders are concentrating on the /ay/ sound, so at the end of our lesson I got them each to say "Please pay me," and then each child received a couple of the candy coins.

As you can imagine, the children liked that part of the lesson best.

 "So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy." -- I Peter 1:13-16

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Prison Angels, Church Angels

Saturday was a prison visiting day, and I found out that Jose (not his real name!) is getting released this month, after seven years in a Hong Kong prison, he will be going back to his home in South America.  He is more than a bit nervous, because his daughter was a baby when he left.  He has written her regularly, telling her that her Daddy is on a long business trip (and what a trip it's been!) What will he find when he goes back?  Will his wife still be there?  He does not know.  Stories filter in about wives who get married and have other children from a new relationship by the time a long-lost husband returns.  And who can blame them?  Jose is now a Christian, and suddenly trusting God takes on a major new challenge.  I am the only woman in our prison visitors group this month.  I am more than old enough to be his mother, and am feeling very maternal, but hugs are not permitted. So I squeeze his hand between both of mine.  "God's Spirit be with you."

Sunday was the second Sunday of the month, so I was at the Cantonese speaking congregation.  I always marvel at the altar flowers, so exotically different from what I'm used to at home in the USA.

  After church two of the congregation's children wanted me to take their pictures by the altar.  Why not?  What better altar decorations than these children?

The one one the left is named "Glory."  how appropriate, eh?

17" Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."  -- 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Buddha, Allah, and the Waiting Father

One of my students may be experiencing a miscarriage right now.  The doctors couldn't find a heart beat, so they sent her home to rest for a few days.  She sent her apologies for not being able to attend class.

One of our friends, meanwhile, received word last week that his daughter had gotten married.  No wedding, no walking her down the aisle, no announcement, even.  Just a phone call "to let you know".  My friend (the Dad) is furious.  He loves that girl, the guy is a great guy, he's happy for them both... but he wanted to be there.  He fully expected to be there.

One of Wayne's students receives word every so often about the newest murder, the latest rape of the women and men of his ethnic group back in his country.  Last month there was a beheading, recorded on someone's  camera.  The images are blurry, but the horror is sharp.

Back in Hong Kong, our immediate neighbors, the Zimmermans, have just received news that they are grandparents for the first time!!! We are beside ourselves with happiness for them... this little girl has been waited for, for a long time.  A really long time.

The gospel for this coming Sunday includes these words:
"while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him."

Asia is a land of many religions, and at least here in Hong Kong, many of them seem to live pretty peaceably, side by side.  And that is a great blessing.  But as for me and my household, I'm glad we follow a spiritual path which features not a beautiful bronze Buddha with a serene look on his face... nor a stern Allah commanding unwavering obedience.... not a host of ancestors who expect, need, and demand offerings over & over again....  but a flesh and blood human being named Jesus, who knows exactly what it means to live in this world at its beautiful best and tragedy & atrocity-filled worst. It moves God to tears, this world of ours, and He's not just sitting somewhere up high, watching these things unfold.

I'm glad I follow a God who runs out to grab ahold of his long-lost kid, this brother of ours who, "...'was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"  -- Luke 15:32b

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Misty Trails -- Stage 3 of the Maclehose

Our goal on Sunday was to conquer  "Stage 3" of the Maclehose Trail before the really hot & humid Hong Kong weather settles in. (It's only in the upper 70's with 95% humidity now.  The tough weather is still ahead.)

Stage 3 of this 100+ K trail is a rather challenging ten KM, with several pretty serious hills to climb.   We figured to be done by early afternoon.

It was cloudy, misty, and threatened rain, but that didn't deter us.

The scenery was gorgeous, and I burned off a few more of my Chinese New Year celebration calories.

And then, just at about the 5 kilometer mark, Wayne twisted his ankle. 

Nothing to be done for it, he had to keep going.  "It doesn't look too bad," I kept chirping.  We had another hill to climb... and then another descent.

With two K to go, he twisted it again.  

Looks like it will be next autumn before we hit stage 4 of the trail.  Stay tuned.

  Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money."  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.  -- James 4:13-15