Friday, May 18, 2018

Close of Eastertide, "Friday Notes" Sunday Worship

Hi GV Family,

I hope this week has been one of expectant joy for you- it certainly has been for me as I was able to take up my part in Grace Van’s Eastertide Joy Challenge a little over a week ago by assisting my parents for ten days on a trip to Florida to visit their friends. The many unexpected joys of serving my dad in particular who is nearly in a wheelchair put a jump in my step this week, made me smile a lot in the ordinary rhythms of my week and gave me sweet, focused times of fellowship with the Lord in my daily times of prayer and reading. How has or is God stretching and growing you? 

While we have a stat holiday (Victoria Day) this weekend, the church calendar recognizes an even greater event that the world is yet to fully see. This Sunday is the final day in our Eastertide season, Pentecost Sunday! Pentecostos means “fiftieth” and represents that moment when fifty days following Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, the Holy Spirit was poured out in power onto God’s Beloved who had gathered from among the nations of the Mediterranean basin. Come hear about the wonder of this day in history when God’s people experienced a remarkable miracle and having received the Holy Spirit were filled with joy to the point of being thought by some to be drunk! We plan to celebrate the close of the Easter season with ICE CREAM SUNDAES!!! Also, please reflect on where God has met you with joy this season and write a one-sentence testimonial and place on our GV apple tree- the tree will be up for one more week after this Sunday! 

We will enjoy the Lord’s Supper together this Sunday. John Chan will be offering his Concepts of Financial Stewardship Class from 12:15-2:15p for those who are interested in talking through some of the practical side of managing resources. During the service, Christine Huh will be giving a short testimonial regarding her experience with our church retreat in Mt. Baker, WA which is coming up the first weekend of June,… so we have a lot of great things planned. You won’t want to miss it!

Blessings and see you Sunday!


Bulletin Quotations:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” -Acts 1:8

“Ever since the early church fathers, commentators have seen the blessing of Pentecost as a deliberate and dramatic reversal of the curse of Babel. . . . at Babel earth proudly tried to ascend to heaven, whereas here in Jerusalem heaven humbly descended to earth.” -John R.W. Stott

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” -Acts 2:17,18

“She had often such views of the glory of the Divine perfections, and of Christ’s excellencies,… that she was overwhelmed, and as it were swallowed up, in the light and joy of the love of God.” -Description of Sarah Edwards during The First Great Awakening

“All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” -Julian of Norwich

Sermon Title: The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Sermon Text: Acts 2:1-21

Sermon Outline:
1. The Miracle of the Moment
2. The Reversal of the Curse
3. The Muting of Distinctions
4. The Joy of the Spirit
5. Still Needing to Be Saved

Benediction: Romans 15:13

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Eastertide Joy Challenge

This is the Eastertide Joy Challenge we are issuing at Grace Vancouver Church this season, as we continue to travel through our sermon series in the book of Daniel. Consider taking the challenge with us!

The Eastertide Joy Challenge:

Daniel lived in a world filled with sorrow, evil and persecution. And the Lord gave him prophetic visions detailing this evil in great detail. All this was so disturbing, that Daniel is even described at the end of chapter 8 as remaining in bed for a few days. Still, in the midst of his sorrow, Daniel knew that he served the God of Heaven whose Kingdom alone would always win out. Because of that knowledge, Daniel approached the world with a hopeful vision serving it faithfully in his daily responsibilities and praying fervently for it (Daniel 8:27 into Daniel 9).

This Eastertide season we recognize God’s sovereign reign in the world in a way that Daniel only anticipated, because Jesus’ resurrection was the ultimate vindication of God’s power over all evil, injustice, sin and death. Our story is one of triumph and resurrection. We can be like Treebeard in Tolkien’s trilogy who is described as “sad, but not unhappy.” He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! 

So the Eastertide Joy Challenge for the rest of this wondrous season until Pentecost Sunday (May 20th) is this:

1. Take up the challenge for the next five weeks to renew yourself in the areas of:

            a. Prayer- egs. could be interceding for a neighbour, friend or family member
                              to know Christ, doing daily morning and evening prayers, i.e. Daily
                               Office, praying each day for the world, the church and city.

             b. Service- egs. could be in serving a neighbour, friend or family member in
                                 intentional ways or re-committing your daily life  and work to the
                                 Lord each day, taking up a new service project or opportunity.

2. Expect to be surprised by joy as you renew your obedience in these areas.

3. Write down some of those moments of joy, great and small alike.

4. Post one-sentence testimonials on the Grace Van “apple tree” that our GV kids will be constructing in the coming weeks.

5. Look forward to celebrating Christ’s resurrection joy with the GV family around Ascension Day or Pentecost Sunday!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Eastertide and New Possibilities

… Easter week itself ought not be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in Church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up. . . .

In particular, if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again- well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative. Of course you have to weed the garden from time to time; sometimes the ground ivy may need serious digging before you can get it out. That’s Lent for you. But you don’t want simply to turn the garden back into a neat bed of blank earth. Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant out a few cuttings. If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit. The forty days of Easter season, until ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. . . . if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.

Tom Wright in Surprised by Hope

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Gift of Resurrection

"Life comes again to us as Gift, a free and divine gift.... Adam is again introduced to Paradise, taken out of nothingness and crowned king of creation. Everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given. And therefore, the greatest humility and obedience is to accept the gift, to say yes- in joy and gratitude."

-Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

"He is not here; He is risen!"

-The two angels to the women in Luke 24

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday- Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? 
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Holy Week, Ordered Affections and March Madness

One of the remarkable blessings of moving to Vancouver almost five years ago, has been that my friend and mentor Steven Garber recently took a post to lead the marketplace theology department at Regent College here locally. Steve has many family ties to Kansas, the land of my upbringing, so he understands a thing or two about the region's passion for basketball, especially this time of year during March Madness.

As Steve and I watched the Kansas-Duke Elite Eight game together yesterday afternoon, we talked about our love for our sports' teams that go beyond simply a love for sports, but root us in a particular place, with a memory of belonging to a particular story. We also talked about "ordered" vs. "disordered" affections. Of course, during the game, Steve did most of the talking as I could barely take my eyes off the screen as the game turned out to be a classic among two of the bluest bloods of college basketball, with Kansas winning in overtime, on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio which will take place this Saturday. Of course, the Final Four game lands on Holy Saturday right between Good Friday and Easter.

I remember back in 2013, my beloved Kansas Jayhawks lost to Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen on Good Friday in a game they should have won. I recorded the game because it took place during our tenebrae "darkness" service, came home, opened the computer to see that KU had lost by just a couple of points. I watched the recording and learned that KU had been up by 10pts. with barely two minutes left in the game and ended up squandering the lead and losing the game. I thought about the game on Holy Saturday more than I did the significance of Good Friday and my joy was strained at best on the greatest day of the year on the church calendar, Easter Sunday.

I want for things to be different this Saturday, Kansas win or loss, but for my joy to be made complete and ordered by my greater allegiance to the Kingdom of God, so to that end I pray entering this Holy Week and Weekend. But I do so knowing that all these things, yes, even March Madness, have been the kindness of God to me granting me His good gifts. So I understand that to love something as simple as a round ball is a good and holy thing to do, but to exalt such gifts, not so much. Here I attach for your reflection an excerpt from my dissertation that was completed last year. The work revolved around how we develop as sense of belonging and home in this world.

We moved to Vancouver in 2013 to serve the family of Grace Vancouver Church and to live in a neighborhood in south Vancouver. For the first time in my life, by all external appearances, I “fit in” and found myself to be more “same” than “different” from the surrounding culture. The mosaic of various Asian cultures across the greater Vancouver landscape made it so, for the first time in my life, I had to adjust to gaining a sense of normalcy regarding my race and ethnicity in a place. In a number of ways, I have loved living in Vancouver, appreciating that eating dim sum and sushi could be thought of as “normal” activity rather than strange, or simply riding my bike along the waterfront on a beautiful Vancouver summer day with the mountains in the background. Nonetheless, my family and I have grieved the loss of what was home for so many years. After three and a half years in Vancouver, we still have a lingering sadness about the friends, neighbors, church, and place we left behind in Nebraska. I still follow the regional sports teams in the Kansas area and stay in touch with old friends. Even as I write this chapter, my alma mater, the University of Kansas’ basketball team is once again seeded number one in the NCAA March Madness tournament and primed for a deep run into the tournament. I am full of both excitement and anxiety because I care so much about Kansas basketball. I tell anyone who will listen that the inventor of the game of basketball, James Naismith, was the first coach at KU, a Canadian, and a Presbyterian minister. I am a KU graduate, a Presbyterian minister, and I live in Canada. I play basketball every Monday night at one of the local community centers in Vancouver, not because I am good at basketball but because through the years, basketball found a way to take up residence in the dwellings of my heart. How could the Lord have been so kind to me to bring all these worlds together for me in something as basic as a round ball?

I have realized that even as I felt alienated at times and was away from a sense of home those many years in the heartland of the US, also I was at home in other ways as well. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

LBD, The Terrorist Inside My Brain

As dad continues to battle Lewy Body Dementia, a lesser known form of dementia than that of Alzheimer's, I often explain to folks who are unfamiliar with the condition, that this was the condition Robin Williams was found to have been afflicted with, before tragically taking his own life. Here is an interview from a couple of years ago with Williams' widow Susan Williams regarding the effects of LBD on Williams. Of course, no two dementias have exactly the same symptoms, but the sense of being trapped in one's own mind and having some awareness as to the inescapability of the condition seems to be a consistent experience. Susan Williams wrote of the condition as having a "terrorist inside my husband's brain." 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Trendy or Essential? Integration of Faith and Work

I thought this article was quite helpful as there is an increasing interest in faith and work in Christian circles these days. Evangelicals in particular are noteworthy for stepping into the latest trend and fad. So a natural question is that as the topic of the integration of faith and work finds interest in evangelical circles, is the conversation simply trendy or essential?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Leithart on Eucharist and Human Work

This was one of the best articles I have read in a while and thought I would pass on... Called to Eucharist

Monday, February 19, 2018

Gathered vs. Scattered and the Middle Ring

To get this out of the way up front,... apologies in advance to my former colleague Pastor Ben Loos here,... the "Middle Ring" is not a Tolkien reference : )

I remember a few years back some friends mentioning that they had neighbours who were not Christians but who were interested in spending more time with them. The comment that was then made to my friends by their neighbours was, "but we know how busy you are with your church activities." Through the years, this comment has made me think more carefully on what is faithfulness to serving God's Kingdom- most of us who have been around "church" for a while generally think of faithfulness defined by what Neil Hudson in his book Imagine Church calls "gathered church" activities. If the doors of the church are open and there are events offered there, or if church members are gathering for a mid-week activity, then we feel a bit guilty if we do not participate or show up to those particular activities. The next Sunday we show up and the pastor may say to us, "I noticed you weren't at the neighbourhood outreach the other day" and shame begins to wash over us. But truth of the matter is that we may have been spending time with those particular neighbours that evening who had commented not so long ago regarding "how busy you are with your church activities." Perhaps we were being faithful to the very thing the neighbourhood outreach at the church facility was seeking to model for all of our members, being a faithful presence to others in our own neighbourhoods and places of habitation.

The reality of our lives in a place like Vancouver is that we find ourselves scattered throughout the city, given an assortment of economic factors our city brings to us. The older idea of making a conscious decision to move into the same neighbourhood together, preferably close to the church facility for the sake of community and mission, is simply not an option for many here in our city, especially for Grace Vancouver Church members where we find our church building to be located in the very expensive west side of Vancouver and in an area of town where there are primarily one and two bedroom apartments (our primary demographic at the church is young families). I believe here Neil Hudson helps us greatly by getting us to think about the roughly 2-10 hours per week we might spend in "gathered church" activities; Hudson then adds up the rest of the hours of the week, minus necessary sleep time and calls those engagements "scattered church" activities, since the Church is about God's people, not so much a bricks and mortar building. He comes up with roughly 110 hours that represent the rest of a typical week. We are still Christ's Church during the week as we scatter, as we are when we gather on the Lord's Day and take on other ministry initiatives together. Hudson uses the number "10" symbolically by simply calling "gathered church" activities the "10." He then calls "scattered church" activities the "110." And the question Hudson brings up is this, how do we see the "110" being as significant as the "10" for faithful service to the Kingdom of God? After all, Hudson makes the point, as the subtitle of his book goes, that what we are to be doing as the Church is "releasing whole-life disciples."

Hudson then goes on to draw concentric circles where the church building and gathered church activities around the building, whether they be neighbourhood outreaches near or around the church facility or Sunday worship gatherings, is the centre. The outer ring is what Hudson calls "big issues of our world" engagements; so in the outer ring is the church's involvement in world missions or meaningful acts of justice and mercy through orphan care, serving the underserved in our communities, refugee care, as a few examples. But what about the middle ring? The middle ring is comprised of our daily contexts that involve our neighbourhoods, workplaces, families, networks of influence. The middle ring represents each of our "110." The middle ring represents most of our lives actually and is a place of meaningful mission for each of us.

If we begin to teach that the "110" is a very significant place of ministry, even possibly the primary place of it for our members, then how does this shape how we manage expectations for "gathered church" events? In one of our membership vows at Grace Vancouver, our members make the promise to "support GV in its worship and work to the best of our ability." How do we encourage our members to do that, but also manage expectations so that their "110" is also a significant part of GV's "worship and work"? What if we began by saying that the Lord's Day gathering of worship on Sundays is the one great non-negotiable where we must come together as members of the Body of Christ that is not only global, but also local and found in particular places? But what if we then helped our members work out, in very intentional ways, where their involvement in the "10" might be from that point forward, to equip them more effectively to be faithful stewards of God's Kingdom in all of life, in the "110" as well?

Now, admittedly, the tricky thing in all this is, that we are far more "alone" when we are "scattered" than when we are "gathered." And here we see why Christian believers in certain parts of the world where there is little Gospel influence tend to become insular because they are so hungry for the fellowship of other believers, and so tend to focus much more on coming together than on the difficulty of being out in the world. So the question that I'm asking is, how do we equip one another in the middle ring, i.e. the "110," which makes up the majority of our lives, but how do we do this without leaving the individual members of our church family "alone," without proper support and the strengthening they need from fellow church members throughout each week?

What do you think?

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Friday Notes" for Sunday Worship for Jan. 28th

Hello,... each week, whenever I am delivering the sermon, I put out a small note to the congregation ahead of time on Fridays called "'Friday Notes' for Sunday Worship." I include those notes here. Also, our sermons can be accessed at the Grace Vancouver Church website here.

Hi GV Family,

I am looking forward to seeing you this Sunday when we will be finishing our 3-wk. January Vision Series that has been entitled, "The Church as a Kingdom of Priests." This Sunday we are looking at a few portions of Scripture, but mostly John 5:9-17 when Jesus heals a man who has been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. The sad thing about this account is that man doesn't acknowledge Jesus or know who he is, and even after Jesus returns to him later to confront him on his wayward heart and reveals his identity to him, instead of bowing down and worshiping the Lord, he turns him into the Jewish people and authorities who then persecute Jesus upon learning his identity. They persecute Jesus because supposedly he violates the regulations of the Sabbath day by healing the man. Yet what the people failed to understand was that it was none other than the Lord of the universe who was standing before them who was the Creator of all and had made the Sabbath day in order to rejoice in all of his acts of creation. And now that the human race had gone wayward and the world was under a curse, the very point of Sabbath was to anticipate a GREAT day of restoration when all things would be RE-created in joy. This was the purpose for which Jesus came and for which he gave his life for us. As he says, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." Lesslie Newbigin wrote of this passage, "God's Sabbath rest did not mean that he had ceased to give life- for babies were born on the Sabbath and rain still fell... God is always-even on the Sabbath- the giver of life and judge of all." Also, this Sunday we will consider how we participate with Jesus in the Father's work, perhaps in more ordinary ways, but significant nonetheless as our "works" are wrapped up in Christ. 

Also this Sunday we will introduce our new office administrator Victor Olawaiye, hear a few words from Sarah Dolan, also from Tim Huh who will be doing a Monday Matters vocational testimonial. I will give an update on elder nominations and we will celebrate the Campanelli's with cake following the service, as this will be their last Sunday with us. Also, our second week of our EHS class will continue at 12:15p. . . . whew, that's a lot! but what a Sunday we have before us- you are not going to want to miss it!

Blessings and see you soon,

Pastor Mike

Sermon Title: "And I Am Working"

Sermon Texts: John 5:9-17; Rev. 5:9,10; 1 Pet. 2:9-12

Sermon Quotations:

"When he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man."  -Proverbs 8:29-31

"God's Sabbath rest did not mean that he had ceased to give life- for babies were born on the Sabbath and rain still fell. . . God is always- even on the Sabbath- the giver of life and the judge of all."  -Lesslie Newbigin

"Hiding your faith, is a way for a believer to survive what is often a conflicted journey. . . . It would be difficult for many, despite their deep desire to identify with Christ, to live openly true to what their faith demands."  -Mako Fujimura

"Here is also wonder and glory, joy and meaning. . . . There is good work to be done."  -Steven Garber

"And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  -Hebrews 12:1-2

Sermon Outline:
1. Jesus' Lack of "Success"
2. The Meaning of Sabbath
3. Our Participation with Jesus in the Father's Work
4. Our Hope in a Great Final Day and Present Opposition
5. The Joy of the Cross

''Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.'' -1 Cor. 15:58

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Why Vocation Matters to the Disillusioned

This was a Facebook post from one of the brothers of a student Steven Garber teaches here locally at Regent College. Evidently Nagaland, India has a political climate and system that seems to tap into much of the disillusionment we feel here in the West.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Permanent Residents of Canada, Yay!

What a remarkable morning as, after over four years of living in Canada, today we were received as Permanent Residents of Canada! Tanya put much hard work into the application process, and our immigration official who received us today was a dual citizen (from the US originally) who so warmly and richly received us. We spent some time talking about Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and then the conversation turned to Michaelle Jean the remarkable Haitian woman who was a refugee and in time would become the 27th appointment (by the Queen of England) as Governor General of Canada, basically the highest office in the land. What a remarkable country to give opportunity for this noble woman to rise to such a position, especially in light of some of the grievous things said in recent days about Beloved Haiti. We also had to celebrate by going to Tim Horton's- what is more Canadian than that, eh?!

I thought a lot about my parents today who moved from Taiwan to the US in their mid-20s and some of what the land of my birth has meant to them as they were able to make a life of love and care for my sister and me in a strange and distant land that became home for them. The US has been quite good to them (and to us as well). Because we have been in Canada for a fair amount of time, should we pursue dual citizenship, our timeline has been expedited a bit, so that we could do so in two years.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Greatest Showman

This behind the scenes clip brought Tanya and me so much joy we had to pass it on. We loved the sense that, despite doctor's orders for Hugh Jackman not to sing following surgery, his joy could not be contained. Art has a way of opening our hearts wide- as C.S. Lewis said, "the world rings with praise." The movie's great too!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Haiti the Beloved

Well, I was on radio blog silence for the entirety of 2017. For the first time since I began my blog in 2008, I did not post any posts for an entire year. Why not? Well, 2017 was a difficult year in many regards for me personally, not without rewards and heightened joys, but also accompanied by remarkable sorrows. Let's begin with the sorrows: my dad continued to deteriorate from Lewy Body Dementia which is a sinister form of dementia that Nashville artist Charlie Peacock commented on not so long ago having lost his own mother who had been afflicted with LBD. Peacock wrote of the condition, "not something I would wish on an enemy." How does one grieve properly the loss of the mental faculties of a father who has always meant so much to me and been present with me through thick and thin? Last year I wrote a short piece reflecting on my dad's condition in a compilation of reflections for Holy Week called The God Who Has Tears. You have to scroll down a bit to find the short reflection, but it is there.

My Beloved Tanya, wife of almost twenty-three years, continues to be afflicted by significant chronic leg and back pain to the point that some days I do not know what to do for her- I pray and I grieve the loss of what her life should be. We continue to seek various treatments and medications, but the loss and deterioration of her health is an enormous burden and we wait upon the Lord. Also, Vancouver has been a difficult place given its spiritual climate as very much a post-Christian place with little memory of Christ and the Church, and the economic pressures are significant for just about everyone who chooses to live here. Lee Beach's most excellent work The Church in Exile helps us here in North America to think intentionally about what life for Christians in a post-Christian age, where the Church is very much on the margins of society, without influence and power, means for us. We are already there on the west coast of Canada in Vancouver, and the rest of North America will soon follow. But the beauty of Beach's book presents a hopeful vision, because truth of the matter is that the Church has always been at its best in sacred history when we find ourselves outside the halls of power and influence.

This leads me to a fourth grief that has been overwhelming for me this last year. I haven't known what to do with the president not to be named south of the border. I have been in an inconsolable space of grief to see what my beloved home country has become under his presidency. I have been so glad to live north of the border and will seriously consider pursuing dual citizenship when the opportunity arises in a few years. But when questions come my way as to how we could have put this man in office, most of my immediate response is to give very little answer and mostly grieve in silence with the answer, "I can try to give you an answer as the US is very divided and the conditions that gave rise to his presidency were there long before 2016, but mostly I do not know and I am very sad." Some of my friends here in Canada have virtually no Christian influence, positive or negative, and know very little about "evangelicalism"; they ask me honest questions about the "evangelical vote," something they hear about only through media sources and wonder how evangelicals square the general lack of a moral center of some of the candidates they support with their belief system in the Bible, which purportedly has a moral center. Tim Keller's recent article in the New Yorker was helpful for at least one atheist friend who for the first time was given language to separate evangelicalism as a belief system from the cultural phenomenon of what it has become in certain pockets of the US, primarily as a cultural movement that seeks power and influence. I gave a sermon right after the 2016 election regarding some of my grief, and we lost one family (American) and the shot at gaining another (American), when they found my sermon to be offensive. However, most of our folks understood and were appreciative of the honest sharing I put forth and the directing of our attention to the Great Shepherd of the Sheep who did not disappoint as Israel's false shepherd leaders had again and again throughout her history. I barely spoke a word about anything going on politic-wise in 2017 at any point, but now Haiti and its people, beautiful as they are, were called out by the president not to be named as a "s-hole" country? Not OK.

I'm back posting, because I needed to say a word about Haiti the Beloved, a country I spent a number of years traveling to and learning from. As today is the eight-year anniversary of the terrible earthquake of 2010, I recall how the town of Mirebalais, Haiti in the Central Plateau region just a bit east of Port-au-Prince literally doubled in size overnight, because the many refugees and displaced from the capital city were taken in as strangers into the homes of those in Mirebalais and cared for in the midst of their suffering, trauma and pain. Has that ever happened here in the middle of the prosperity we experience in North America, where a town of a few hundred thousand doubles in size because of the culture of hospitality that is native to the people? It happened in 2010 in Mirebalais, Haiti and to God be the glory. There is no defense for the terrible comments by one who holds the most powerful office in the world as president of the United States- may we educate ourselves regarding the history of a place that has experienced untold corporate trauma through her history (here is a great starting point), before standing with disdain over such a beautiful and beloved people. The God who has tears, also sees His brothers and sisters in the faces of those who comprise Haiti the Beloved.

Oh yes, and I told you I would share some of the triumphs and heightened joys of 2017. After six long years, I finished my Doctor of Ministry dissertation! Here it is if you are interested in pushing through it- feel free to skip to the final forty pages of chapter 5- I think you might also enjoy the acknowledgements section which tells you some about why I have been so passionate about the project. I began the degree when my youngest Calvin was six-years-old, and I finished when he was twelve- way too long, but it is done! Another remarkable gift came to me when one of my doctoral advisors, friend and mentor Dr. Steven Garber took a job locally here at Regent College- Steve is now local and I often pinch myself to be so close to someone I have so long admired. Also, we continue to see God provide in marvelous ways for Grace Vancouver Church and the work of the Gospel here north of the border. Our family grows all the time with a tenth, eighth and seventh grader under our roof. Mia, Isaac and Calvin bring us untold joys (and some days untold griefs as well!) We were able to take the three of them, along with my parents and sister to Taiwan last fall, and they enjoyed some of their ethnic heritage in a new way, for the first time being in a country their grandparents grew up in. Dad did OK as well, likely his last time back home. So maybe I'm back blogging, I don't know,... but silence was no longer an option for me in recent days.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Be Thou My Vision and Leonard Cohen Meet (repost)

Since the great Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away this last week, I thought I would repost this very encouraging video I had originally posted leading up to Holy Week 2014. A priest adapts Cohen's Hallelujah and does a marvelous job on a young couple's wedding day. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Arise, Ye Dead! Halloween, a Triumphal Day?!

Today marks the eve of one of my favorite days of the year, All Saints' Day! Here is a painting of the French impressionist artist Georges Rouault who depicts that Great Day of Resurrection that has been secured for all of the Lord's saints on account of Jesus' triumph in His death and resurrection! Here's a helpful little article about the ways in which the Christian can appropriate meaning from Halloween: Trick or Treat? It's Martin Luther Also consider this article written by James B. Jordan on the function of Halloween likely utilized at some point in history to mock all powers of evil that were conquered and defeated at the Cross: Concerning Halloween.

"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." -Col. 2:15

Friday, October 21, 2016

An Other Kingdom

I must confess, I am so utterly and totally disillusioned with the election cycle. I can barely read articles or posts (even written by thoughtful friends) about the election without becoming jaded further, cynical, angry and frustrated. I suppose I can add to the collective frustration by writing yet another post about the election season. I wrote back in February while Trump was ascending (before he began to descend) that the evangelical alignment with Trump was utterly disappointing, but not surprising, in light of the fear of our movement of being pushed to the margins of cultural power (though it is happening and will continue to do so) DT and the Evangelical Vote. Currently I am trying to give my dissertation a good push, writing and considering the idea of place and belonging.

Perhaps the most encouraging piece I read this week as I was writing was from a recent book put out by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight, An Other Kingdom. If you know anything about these three, they come from dramatically different backgrounds, Block being an organizational development expert from a Jewish background, Brueggemann an Old Testament scholar and McKnight a community organizer most well-known for having developed with Jody Kretzmann the movement ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development). While Block and McKnight have been writing together since 2010 (The Abundant Community), somehow Brueggemann joined the team just recently, and my mind pretty much exploded. For NBA fans, understand that in the world of community development and those who see the handprints of the Bible all over the ideas behind ABCD, Brueggemann joining the team of Block and McKnight is more explosive and wonderful than Kevin Durant joining Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the Mighty Mighty Warriors! : )

Block, Brueggemann and McKnight cast a vision for growth towards peace and abundance built on what they call a Neighborly Covenant. What if the place of transformation and reversing the evils of our consumer society were not so much in the place of national elections and consumer politics? What if Hunter's idea of "faithful presence" in our vocational spheres and neighborhoods was truly the way to at least hope for a flourishing society? (To Change the World) or as D.G. Hart wrote a few years ago that perhaps the greatest way to impacting society's welfare was to coach little league over and above getting too involved with national politics? (From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin). I must confess that living in Canada I have not been all-too-motivated getting my voter registration in order since I am quite ambivalent to our choices. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. But I will get my boys to football practice this week, and I will continue to work towards building better neighborhoods in my community.

So, my apologies for adding another somewhat meaningless post to mostly meaningless posts about the election cycle. Enjoy.

"Our task is to imagine a culture ordered differently. Imagine the human benefit of an alternative to the market ideology that defines our culture. We call this the Neighborly Covenant because it enlivens and humanizes the social order. 

The Neighborly Covenant is an alternative to a market ideology that has reached its limits, no matter how high the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbs. The map we have really isn't working. It is visibly flawed. We see in every political campaign a rhetoric designed solely for marketing the candidate, not for meaning. We force all politicians into promising what they can't deliver. It becomes a concentrated version of the consumer ideology. Citizen as consumer, candidate as supplier. And so we campaign and vote on marketing slogans: liberal, conservative, values, democracy, end poverty, maintain standard of living, jobs, education, marriage this, guns that. These catchphrases are just code words, like advertising, that exploit people's needs and anxiety for the sake of candidate market share, namely winning their votes. This language is another subversion of the common good and the longing for public servants. We think the wish for an alternative culture will be fulfilled in the ballot box. 

What we are proposing is language for alternative ways to a covenantal culture. The free market consumer ideology has defined the dominant codes, that particular way of talking about our culture. This is what has led us to stalemate. Our work is to create another set of code words–ones that are active beyond election years and have different substance in defining our communal identity. This is the departure." 

Friday, August 26, 2016

David Brooks on the State of Politics, Loss of Vocation

Charlie Rose interviews NY Times columnist David Brooks on the state of the US political system, the rise of Donald Trump and why things seem to be the way they are with the system. Brooks is incredibly reflective in the interview (as he always is), lacks the smugness of many social commentators and has some remarkable insights into both the culture as well as to his own sense of "calling" as a columnist. Of course, to me the most remarkable line in the interview is when near the 18:45 mark, Brooks states that the "government problem" in the US stems from the fact that at some point "politics and leadership became a profession rather than a vocation." Wow.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Standing for What We Do Not Believe In

Building an identity on what we do not want: . . .

"The community form of rebellion is protest. It is noble in tradition but still often keeps us in perpetual reaction to the stances of others. There is safety in building an identity on what we do not want. The extremists on both sides of any issue are more wedded to their positions than to creating a new possibility. That is why they make unfulfillable demands. The AM radio band is populated with this non-conversation. Any time we act in reaction to evil, we are giving power to what we are in reaction to. . . . The real problem with rebellion is that it is such fun. It avoids taking responsibility, operates on the high ground, is fueled by righteousness, gives legitimacy to blame, and is a delightful escape from the unbearable burden of being accountable."

Community: The Structure of Belonging

As the world rages, and as I believe I have been given a mandate to "go local" with love, to engage neighbours as a way of standing against the larger universal currents of evil that seem to abound, I've been blessed greatly by Peter Block's Community: The Structure of Belonging. Here Block speaks of the value of hospitality, of welcoming strangers,... but not only strangers but also of "the strange ideas and beliefs they bring with them."

"Creating space for dissent is the way diversity gets valued in the world. Inviting dissent into the conversation is how we show respect for a wide range of beliefs. It honors the Bohr maxim that for every great idea, the opposite idea is also true. 

There is no way to be awake in the world without having serious doubts and reservations. Each of us takes many walks in the desert and in some ways our faith is measured by the extent of our doubts. Without doubt, our faith has no meaning, no substance; it is purchased at too small a price to give it value. 

This sounds simple and true enough, but in a patriarchal world, dissent is considered disloyalty. Or negativism. Or not being a team player. Or not being a good citizen. America, love it or leave it. You are either with us or against us. This is a corruption of hospitality and friendship. Hospitality is the welcoming of not only of strangers, but also of the strange ideas and beliefs they bring with them.”  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reading the Church

"In our fragmented, post-Christian culture, . . . what is demanded is a theology of orthopraxy more than orthodoxy. Again, this is not to dispense with the need for orthodoxy as a foundation for faith. It is, however, to make the practice of the Christian faith the ultimate concern of theology. What really matters now is how the church is able to articulate and demonstrate a transformative spirituality. If people are going to consider Christianity as a religion, the first text they may read is not the Bible but the church."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Firstfruits of a New Creation

"Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?"

-Surprised to be alive, Sam addressing Gandalf in Return of the King

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

-Revelation 21:5

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

“[In anticipation of the coming Christ], God's Shekinah suffers the exile of his people. . . . has become homeless, and wanders restlessly through the dust of this world’s streets."

-Shekinah: The Home of the Homeless God, by Jürgen Moltmann

"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"

-Matthew 27:45,46

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Banal "Politics as Usual"

". . . American Christians too often find themselves in deep regret at the loss of the privileges of being the chaplains to power. The Religious Right in the United States grasps desperately for nostalgic signs of 'influence' and occasionally works up enough political influence to warrant the passing notice of partisan machines. But their accomplishments are heralded by the world not because of their unique Christian witness, but precisely because of their ability to express support for the gods of the state and engage in banal 'politics as usual.'"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Missionary" as New Cultural Identity

"The new cultural identity of the church in the Western world is that of missionary. . . . This means that local churches will need to undergo a conversion-like experience that brings a complete change in self-perception–from one that sees the church itself as the primary focus of attention to one that sees the community (or world) as the focus."

Donald Trump and the Evangelical Vote

There are some advantages I suppose to now living outside the U.S., after having been born and raised and having spent the first forty-two years of my life in the good ol' U.S. of A. For those familiar with my public ministry, I spent much of my time in Nebraska from 1998-2013, first at Zion Church and then at Grace Chapel, a church of which I was the lead planter, proclaiming from the pulpit that, despite conservative Christianity being aligned so closely with national politics for most of my years on earth, nonetheless the U.S. national political enterprise on whole was not the primary instrument by which the establishment of the Good News of the Kingdom of God would move forward in the world.

I've sought to communicate  that there is much about the national political enterprise that has been embraced for a very long time by evangelical believers as a form of civic idolatry. I feel a bit vindicated, though I'm not happy about it, by the fact that Donald Trump now seems to have gained so much of the evangelical vote during this 2016 election cycle. Should this development be so much a surprise? or is it a natural consequence of a certain view of the high virtue of the political enterprise for advancing Divine purposes that evangelicals have held for a very long time now, now turning desperate with a hold on political power beginning to slip, perhaps even dramatically so? If Donald Trump isn't anything, he is at least a charismatic leader, evidently a faithful Presbyterian now who can quote from Two Corinthians?! (wink, wink, tongue-in-cheek) well-versed and well-skilled in the exercise of power and persuasive rhetoric. I even listen to the Donald at times and then have to go have a strong drink to shake off the Jedi mind trick that has just been performed on me (doesn't Proverbs 31:6 say to give strong drink to those who are perishing?!) Perhaps rather than the humble prayers of God's people, the rise of Trump can now bring in Jesus on the white horse to deliver us from our sorrows!

My fellow Christians here in Canada tend to be quite puzzled by how it is that an unscrupulous guy with so very little evidence of a Christian ethnic or moral center can be so popular with Christian voters in the U.S. It is an absolute conundrum to them, and in my mind, right it should be. Currently working on my dissertation, I came across this little section in Lee Beach's recent book The Church in Exile on the idea of living faithful lives for Christ in a post-Christian world, one where the church now has to grapple with what it means to be without power and cultural capital in the world, a convenience it had possessed for a very long time. Beach writes that Peter in his first epistle offers this vision of the posture the early Christians took essentially as a powerless people:

... one (a posture) that acknowledged the people's lack of power yet offered them a vision that empowered them to see that even their quiet lives of holy living could make a difference. In the post-Christendom church this kind of vision can provide a unique challenge. For many of us, living as those without power is a new experience to which we have not yet become fully accustomed yet. We are used to having an opinion that represents the majority and a voice that curries influence with those in power. This has changed radically, and learning to function in a way that relinquishes old assumptions about power and influence is difficult. p.130

I suppose there is always the adjustment period of coming to terms with what has been lost for the church in the U.S. and continues to be lost as far as a majority voice on political and social matters. James Davison Hunter in his 2010 book To Change the World makes an evaluation regarding why this is so; Hunter ties the general tide of marginalization of Christians based on the reversal of fortunes for those (evangelical Christians) who had assumed that power was the way to establishing the will of God here on earth in the first place. How did we get so far off track from the basic teachings of the Bible that the first will be last, and the great ones must first become servants? I don't know any more than I know why Trump has the majority of the evangelical vote? So as Hunter says, the general tide of res-sentiment, a Nietzschean term, developed as a sentiment of resentment and hostility against Christians in the broader culture. If you believe in Karma (which ironically enough I don't), then one could argue that the Christians are finally getting their due! Perhaps it is not really Karma, but to reject Karma is not to reject our accountability to the covenantal nature of God's universe with its accompanying blessings and curses. As my doctoral advisor Dr. Steven Garber likes to say, we have one world to live in and it's God's world,... so in the end, given the complex bottomline of the universe, you must listen to what it teaches you if you are going to flourish in all the ways you were meant to flourish. The way of the Kingdom of God comes through far more humble means after all. What if we had simply done a better job loving the world? Well, one missed opportunity I suppose makes way for a new opportunity. Now Christians in North America are able to serve as an increasingly marginalized people- to be more careful and caring and subversive with how we engage the world for Christ.

Retreat I do not advocate, though I suppose 2.5 years before the phenomenal political rise of the Donald, one could argue I already took up the offer of one radio host to move north of the border should Trump ever become elected president! I'm not a prophet or the son of a prophet,... but then again... : ) Actually, I'm here for a more positive reason- in a place where Christian power and the generational memory of the work of the Church was lost long ago, the work of the Kingdom of God has continued to move forward in small but meaningful ways, as God's people pray and as Hunter says, exercise faithful presence in all of life, stewarding whatever vocational influences are their's. As for the church in my beloved home country, if pruning and humbling and the perpetual reminder that Jesus' Kingdom is not of this world is what it takes for God's people to see finally, then with a heavy heart, I rejoice for Jesus' Church there as well.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Beware of the Phog : )

Lots of goodness here as over the holiday break I was able finally to take my family to Allen Fieldhouse, "the St. Andrews of College Basketball." My first experience with the historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse was in 1979 when I went to basketball camp there following my 3rd grade year. It was great to take my kids to the KU athletics hall of fame at the Fieldhouse to learn a bit about the history of the game (the inventor of the game of basketball James Naismith was the first coach at KU and is buried in Lawrence; he was also a Presbyterian minister and a Canadian- too much goodness to even put into words : )).


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Eve Neighbourhood Noël Dinner and Service

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)." -Matt. 1:23

We appreciate your prayers for our 2nd annual Christmas Eve Neighbourhood Noël dinner and service. Our desire is to extend the love of Christ to our immediate neighbourhood on Christmas Eve, so we have invited our immediate neighbours as well as folks from the public housing and drop in centre just down the street. Also, we will be singing Christmas Carols in front of our building as we transition our small space at Grace Vancouver from dinner to the worship service.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hsu Prayer Newsletter, 7th Edition

Here is our most recent Prayer Newsletter to our prayer and financial supporters. Thank you for everyone's support and care of us and our work here in Vancouver. And, yes, spoiler alert,... it does include more on Royals baseball : )