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 : )

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Royal Celebration

A Royal Celebration
Hey Kansas City, today was amazing. Relive the moments here - you'll be talking about this day for years to come.
Posted by KMBC 9 News Kansas City on Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Downtown KC Victory Parade Celebrating the Royals

This is how much the Royals first World Series triumph in thirty years means to the people of Kansas City. Estimates are now that 800,000 people came out for today's parade.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Saints Day, . . . A Sacred Spin on the Dead

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'"         -The Gospel of John 11:25,26

On this Eve of a Hallowed Day 2015, I thought I'd post something on how Nov. 1st, All Saints Day, has become one of my favorite days of the year:

I took the call to Vancouver in large part because of the memory of my late maternal grandparents who meant so much to me in life and are buried nearby in the Bellevue/Seattle area. After spending nearly a decade serving in Haiti among a very superstitious people, being raised in a Taiwanese culture, itself with much involvement with the occult and being somewhat familiar with the Chinese notion of "luck," I look back on my last 25 years as a follower of Christ, and I am deeply grateful that Christ has conquered the grave, and that because of His triumph for His Church Universal, we view death in an entirely different way from the rest of the world. Is death an intruder? Yes. Does it tear at the fabric of human relationships bound together in love and covenant? Yes. Did Jesus weep with a loud shriek of anger and pain standing before his friend Lazurus' tomb? Yes. But is death the great unknown like the Lord Voldemort, the one who must not be named? No. When Tanya and I were looking at one particular rental situation here in Vancouver, a Chinese family turned us down, the reasoning being this: Mike is a pastor, pastors conduct funerals that involve dead people; ergo, we do not want him living in our house for fear of evil spirits coming with him. I chuckle, and I grieve, for so many people live in this way fearing what is considered to be the great unknown; however, for those who know Jesus, we have a different kind of hope and formulate things differently.

In working on my dissertation, I came across this wonderful piece of reading from Philip Sheldrake's Spaces for the Sacred. Sheldrake speaks of how Christianity produced a "reversal of traditional beliefs and practices about death and burial" in the Roman Empire. A new equation emerged:

Cemeteries were sacred from the earliest times. Holy men and women eventually died. Thus it was their burial places, along with those of Apostles and martyrs, which became the most visible monuments of this changed understanding of the sacred as located in people. It was important that the holy dead should continue to exercise their drawing power in the midst of the living. Because a theology of resurrection altered the meaning of death to point onwards to another form of existence, dead people had a special role in Christianity by joining two worlds together. Their tombs were privileged places where contrasting worlds could meet.

The traditional practice in the pre-Christian Roman Empire was to relegate cemeteries outside the walls of cities. But by the end of the sixth century, the tombs of saints were becoming centres of public Church life. There was a kind of theology of real presence that suggested an equation: the saints are 'with God'; the saints continue to be with us; ergo they are mediators in our midst of the presence of divine power– a kind of 'taster' of what was on offer in the other world. This produced a reversal of traditional beliefs and practices about death and burial and was one of the most powerful symbols of the encroachment of a specifically Christian culture into the mainstream of the late Empire. The dead were no longer rigidly excluded from the public life of the city of the living. From the start of its public existence, Christianity engineered a massive and subversive transgression of important boundaries. Spaces for the Sacred, p. 48

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Go Royals!!!

A part of growing up near Kansas City and following a small market baseball team like the KC Royals is that the lows are low and the highs are high. The Royals had not been to the MLB playoffs for 29 years until last year when they went all the way to the World Series and then lost by one run in game 7 of the WS against the San Francisco Giants. I wrote about my excitement last year, of the Royals returning to the WS: KC, KC, Here I Come! My Royals ran into a performance of historic proportions in the work of SF pitching ace Madison Bumgarner, but I was so proud of how hard they played, never giving up, always playing with energy and purpose. Were it not for Bumgarner's other-worldly performance, they would have brought back their second WS title in franchise history back to KC last year. I was a 14-yr.-old in grade 9 when the Royals won their first WS title; back in 1985, I was able to attend Game 2 and an older gentleman leaned over and said, "you will remember this evening for the rest of your life young man." He was right. 

It is now 30 years later (wow, am I that old?! I am : )), and the Royals are up by two games to zero against the New York Mets in the 2015 WS; however, tomorrow night they go to NY for the next three games. Let's see if they can get it done; either way, it is an exciting time to be a KC sports' fan. I read somewhere that 79% of all the televisions in the metropolitan KC area were on for the first game of the WS a couple of nights ago. I imagine that number was even higher last night for game 2. Part of me has contemplated getting on a plane if the WS goes into next week as there is nothing like the broader Kansas City community on fire when one of their sports' teams is doing well; however, even from a distance, up in Canada, it has been an amazing October for me. Though I probably won't make the trip, it has been amazing to follow my team from a distance. In fact, it was fun wearing my KC Royals hat around town here in Vancouver BC while locals were all rooting for the Blue Jays in the ALCS!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Visions of Vocation

I consider Steven Garber to be a friend and mentor- the privilege of the last five years have in large part been due to my time spent with him in my doctor of ministry program. I cannot recommend highly enough to you his book Visions of Vocation. Here I quote an excerpt:

But when I was twenty, . . . in my own late-adolescent longings I thought Marx was close to the truth. He had a passionate commitment to a just world; at least it seemed so to me in my young idealism. He had a comprehensive critique of the world, and of our place in it, and I desperately wanted that too. But as tempted as I was by him, eventually I was drawn even more into another vision of the way the world should be–that of the kingdom of God. When push came to intellectual shove, the Christian vision for the way life ought to be answered my questions and addressed my hopes more fully than did Marx's–and it still does, more than ever.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Converting a Vision of the World and of Life

"There is no point in converting people to Christ if they do not convert their vision of the world and of life, since Christ then becomes merely a symbol for all that we love and want already-without Him. This kind of Christianity is more terrifying than agnosticism or hedonism."

-Alexander Schmemann in his journal

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

God's First Thought of the World

"The Sacrifice of the Son is God's first thought of the world."

-Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ascension Day!

"Today is Ascension Day, and that means that it is a day of great joy for all who can believe that Christ rules the world and our lives."

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Sunday, April 5, 2015

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, April 3, 2015

Good Friday

"And Adam, when he left the Garden where life was to have been eucharistic–an offering of the world in thanksgiving to God–Adam led the whole world, as it were, into darkness. In one of the beautiful pieces of Byzantine hymnology Adam is pictured sitting outside, facing Paradise, weeping. It is the figure of man himself."

-For the Life of the World, by Alexander Schmemann

"If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No–it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God's vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death."

-The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
-Isa. 9:6

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kansas City, Kansas City, Here I Come!

OK, so I'm not really planning at this point on taking the trip down from Vancouver to KC for the World Series. However, I must say this is a remarkable feeling seeing that the last time KC went to the World Series, let alone the playoffs, was 1985. I was a 14-yr-old kid at the time and able to attend game 2 of the Royals vs. the Cardinals in KC, a series the Royals would go on to win in seven games. A stranger who was sitting next to me said that I may not realize it at the time, but that the memory of being at the World Series will stay with me for many years to come- he was right; it certainly has. And now the Royals are going back! Wow, what a magical run it has been.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Foretaste of More than Tobacco

To the surprise of many, I have exercised remarkable restraint through the years by not writing very much at all about cigars and my passion for them : ). I have received criticism for standing by this passion; to this day, I correct my mother explaining the difference between a passion and a habit. I began my blogging journey back in 2008 by talking about the "taboo" subjects of motorcycles and cigars ( Now that I am deep into my passion on the centrality of vocation, so for the one who has eyes to see, perhaps even a cigar shop like this one serves as a foretaste of heaven; look and listen for it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Liturgy and Justice

“Gathering for celebration on Sunday and dispersing to begin the work of doing justice on Monday, a cadence of one and six, forms the essential rhythm of a week in the life of New Song Community Church. Because God’s activity in worship is a piece with God’s activity in the world, the worship of the church is a piece with its life in the neighborhood. The worship of God is flowing out into the streets of Sandtown, where it belongs in order to have integrity and authenticity (Isa. 1:11-17; 58:3-7; Amos 5:21-24; Heb. 13:15-16). For liturgy and justice belong together. Liturgy,… is not authentic unless the activity of justice is also present. New Song’s participatory worship, life of prayer, patterns of testimony, struggle for reconciliation, announcement of pardon and grace, and labors for a more just and joyful community form a single life dedicated to God.”

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Knowledge and Respect as Superior to Tolerance

"The idea of equality is a good one, so long as it means 'equality before the law.' Beyond that, the idea becomes squishy and sentimental because of manifest inequalities of all kinds. It makes no sense, for example, to equate equality with freedom. The two concepts must be joined precisely and within strict limits if their association is to make any sense at all. Equality, in certain circumstances, is anything but free. If we have equality and nothing else- no compassion, no magnanimity, no courtesy, no sense of mutual obligation and dependence, no imagination- then power and wealth will have their way; brutality will rule. A general and indiscriminate egalitarianism is free-market culture, which, like free-market economics, tends towards a general and destructive uniformity. And tolerance, in association with such egalitarianism, is a way of ignoring the reality of significant differences. If I merely tolerate my neighbors on the assumption that all of us are equal, that means I can take no interest in the question of which ones of us are right and which ones are wrong; it means that I am denying the community the use of my intelligence and judgment; it means that I am not prepared to defer to those whose abilities are superior to mine, or to help those whose condition is worse; it means that I can be as self-centered as I please.

In order to survive, a plurality of true communities would require not egalitarianism and tolerance but knowledge, an understanding of the necessity of local differences, and respect. Respect, I think, always implies imagination- the ability to see one another, across our inevitable differences, as living souls."

A Placed People

"If the word community is to mean or amount to anything, it must refer to a place (in its natural integrity) and its people. It must refer to a placed people. . . . 'community' must mean a people locally placed and a people, moreover, not too numerous to have a common knowledge of themselves and of their place."

To Belong to One Another and to Place

"A community, unlike a public, has to do first of all with belonging; it is a group of people who belong to one another and to their place."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Ordinary Work" as Glorious Work

My co-pastor, Mark Swanson, sent this to me recently. Mark knows how passionate I am about the topic of vocation. It really is amazing to think about how what we may assume from day-to-day to be "ordinary work" can be full of artistry, skill and wonder. Pictured are some London street workers who were captured doing "glorious work" in their daily rhythms.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Gospel, About Land

"If Christians could be clear that the gospel entrusted to Christians is also about land, perhaps a new conversation could emerge, but it will not so long as we misunderstand our faith in categories either existentialist or spiritual-transcendental."

The Land: Place as Gift, Promise and Challenge in Biblical Faith, p. 203

The Central Human Problem

"Our study of land suggests that . . . . the central problem is not emancipation but rootage, not meaning but belonging, not separation from community but location within it, not isolation from others but placement deliberately between generations of promise and fulfillment. The Bible is addressed to the central human problem of homelessness (anomie) and seeks to respond to that agenda in terms of grasp and gift."

The Land: Place as Gift, Promise and Challenge in Biblical Faith, p. 199-200

The Storied Place of Biblical Faith

"In the Old Testament there is no timeless space, but there also is no spaceless time. There is rather storied place, that is, a place that has meaning because of the history lodged there. There are stories that have authority because they are located in a place. This means that biblical faith cannot be presented simply as a historical movement indifferent to place that could have happened in one setting as well as another, because it is undeniably fixed in this place with this meaning. And for all its apparent 'spiritualizing,' the New Testament does not escape this rootage. The Christian tradition has been very clear in locating the story in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Galilee."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Consumer Culture. . . Dealing with Our Aloneness

"Family function and community competence lie at the heart of the distinction between aloneness and hollowness. Hollowness is produced by the way we deal with being alone. We are alone in the world, and that is immutable. The question is how we deal with the loneliness. Hollowness is the lack of resources or competence to deal with the aloneness. We then turn to the consumer culture to fill it with purchased experience."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Community Competence

". . . in too many cases, we are disconnected from our neighbors and isolated from our communities. Consequently, the community and neighborhood are no longer competent. When we use the term community competence, we mean the capacity of the place where we live to be useful to us, to support us in creating those things that can be produced only in the surroundings of a connected community."

Friday, August 22, 2014

An Open Letter to Richard Dawkins

This letter makes me proud to have spent fifteen years in Nebraska. I do not know personally the one who wrote the letter, but he is from Lincoln, and I held back the tears as I read. If you did not catch it, recently, Richard Dawkins advocated that it was a moral imperative to abort Down's Syndrome babies. Ugh- to call such evil good hurts my heart. During my early years in youth ministry, I drove a school bus to supplement my income. I drove a bus for mentally and developmentally disabled kids; and it was one of the most joyous times of my life. I think of one boy in particular named Jeff. Jeff had Down's Syndrome and greeted me each morning with a hug and a smile. I learned about a year later after I had moved on to attend seminary that Jeff had passed away because of a heart condition. I often think of Jeff and the joy he brought during his short life.

Also, here was a post from a while back about Tim Harris, a young man with Down's who owns a restaurant! It's an awesome clip and worth your time.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Community, A Living Organism

"A community is not something you have, like a pizza. Nor is it something you can buy, as visitors to Disneyland . . . . It is a living organism based on a web of interdependencies- which is to say, a local economy."

- James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere