Friday, April 19, 2019

Passover 2019



A great rabbi of a couple of millenia ago once said, "...salvation is from the Jews." Can't agree more!

Because it is the Passover season, the Passover story in particular and the Exodus narrative in general have been much on my mind, The action-packed Exodus narrative of rescue and destruction has attracted interpretations through the ages, from a wide spectrum of worldviews, from Jewish to Christian to secular. Within its two interconnected themes of redemption and judgement, there are also myriad interpretations, some read with lenses of nationalism, some of progress, others of humanism, etc.

And for some, the Exodus narrative (with its climatic Passover event), cannot be fully understood without focusing on its main protagonist, YHWH. It was his act of supreme mercy towards the downtrodden and abhorrence  of oppression that the Israelites were rescued out of the severe bondage of Egyptian slavery. From there, a course is set for this particular people to be the bearer of God’s redemptive love to all peoples of all nations.

In reading any narrative, much can be gleaned from minor characters and subplots, but the overarching thrust of the story is lost when the main protagonist is ignored or cut out altogether.

In our willingness to embrace the many different interpretations of the Exodus story, compelling and necessary as I have found some to be, I wonder how much richer these interpretations could be and what deeper meanings could be additionally gleaned if the main protagonist were rightfully made central in this pivotal narrative of all times?

I encourage each of us to dive into this fascinating Exodus narrative during the Passover season, allowing YHWH to take and guide us through his out-of-this-world story!

21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things."
26 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." 
John 4:.21-26


Friday, June 15, 2018

The Bible According to Jeff Sessions


 Tempi Madonna by Raphael

There has been a crisis of faith for me, not with regard to faith in God, but faith in the evangelical church. The church has been either silent, supportive or proactive in perpetrating godless policies that have come out of the Trump administration that harm the destitute and voiceless -- the very people that God has called his people time and time again to protect. Sadly, the church has lost its credibility to the world by its outspoken support of the Trump administration and, equally damnable, by its silence.

I am relieved somewhat that the church has spoken up recently about the zero tolerance immigration policy of the Trump administration, that has resulted in children being taken from their parents. If that does not break your heart, I don't know what will.  Christians are quick to give voice to unborn children, it stands to reason that we must be quick to defend children that are born!

Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indignantly pushed back, using the Bible to defend this policy, citing the Apostle Paul and Nehemiah. According to him, "the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order..."  Here again Scripture was misused, lifted out of context and for yet another wicked purpose. I believe this  passage was also invoked by some to defend slavery in this country. I would also add that for the Christian, there is a law that supercedes the law of government, and that is the law of God. Consistent in the Bible is not obedience to government, but obedience to God who calls us over and over again in the whole of Scripture to defend the cause of the vulnerable (the widows, the orphans, and the sojourners).

Sessions insisted that he is a law officer, a law officer for a secular nation state, not a theocracy. But yet he referenced the biblical example of Nehemiah building the wall. God told Nehemiah to build a wall when he got back to Jerusalem, Sessions said. "That's the first thing he told him to do. It wasn't to keep people in, it was to keep bad people out," he conjectured.  That's another biblical passage that needs careful exegesis. For now, let me just say, as far as I know, Nehemiah lived at a time of theocracy. So since Mr. Sessions is adamant that the US is not a theocracy, why would he think to reference this passage? Once again manipulating the passage for his own ends, no doubt.

To Jeff Sessions and all supporters of the Trump administration, please do not trash the Holy Scriptures for unholy ends of the Trump administration. And contrary to the hopes of President Trump, for the church, God is the only one who "speaks and his people sit up at attention"!


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Parapets!


Cemetery in Gloucester by Edward Hopper

When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
 Deuteronomy 22:8


I don't know about you, but I am tired of hearing our government officials say they are offering their prayer and support after each mass shooting! I am not going to doubt the sincerity of their prayers, but I think they should keep their prayers private and to work on making parapets!  They have within their power to bring about stricter gun legislation to protect the country. But instead they stick to uttering overarching sentiments about their prayers and "forever" support, or to sermonizing about evil and "hearts without God". We don't need our government officials to philosophy about the origin of evil or look into the hearts of men, or even to pray for us but to first of all govern and govern with integrity and not be demagogues and pander to powerful lobbyists. We need them to make and enforce laws that keep us safe, lest we continue to be harmed (killed) from their cowardly inaction or desperate hold to power.

For the guilt of blood are upon those who fail to make parapets!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mother's Day 2018



My daughters flew in from Chicago and New York respectively to celebrate Mother's Day a couple of weekends early. Just as well, as it would have been too hot in Dallas this weekend to serve their lovingly curated feast in our library with every window opened to let in the delightful afternoon breeze. 

Every treat was homemade, from the Victoria sponge cake to the smoked salmon sandwiches. Along with the scrumptious scones and sandwiches, there were Singaporean delights like kueh dada and kueh lapis, served in the yellow enamel tiffin carrier that my mother handed down to me.

My mother would have enjoyed this elaborate afternoon tea and been tickled pink at the finesse of her granddaughters' lavish spread. She would have rated it high above our regular afternoon tea spots like the Tanglin Club and the Goodwood Hotel in Singapore!

I am grateful on this Mother's Day for my mother and my daughters, for their undying love, influence, guidance and care, and for the beauty and joy they bring into my life!

Happy Mother's Day!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Concrete Concept of Justice


"I can remember one of my teachers, Abraham Joshua Heschel, telling us that Plato and Aristotle would have laughed at the prophet Isaiah.  How petty to be concerned about one widow being cheated, one poor man starving.  Worry instead about the idea of Justice, the definition of equality, they would have told him.  But the reader of the Bible is told that the abstract concept of Justice is meaningless unless it is translated into the lives of every citizen."  Harold Kushner, To Life

There seems to be many battle cries these days for justice, for equality.  The phenomenon is to be applauded as it awakens us to the disparity, desperateness and brokenness of our world.  It is easy to get caught up with the big ideas of justice and equality and their grand (and sometimes subversive) rhetoric.  But such ideas are at best abstract and the rhetoric needlessly grandiose unless we draw from them the desire to affect indidual lives, to help in concrete ways.  Otherwise, we are merely caught up with phenomena of the day, feeling self-righteous and becoming contemptuous of others who are not as caught up with the wave.

[The LORD your God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. - Deuteronomy 20:18
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. - Isaiah 1:16-17
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. - James1.27

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Using God's Name in Vain

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/religion/article127687134.html#storylink=c






As Christians, we should be careful that we do not take God's name in vain.  Like many, I hate it when the name of Jesus is used as an expletive.  But we are also to be careful that we do not use God's name to propagate our own agendas.

In the inauguration yesteday, God's name and biblical quotes were used frequently.  The president, who once claimed that nobody reads the Bible more than he, paraphrased a psalm about unity in his speech.  And then there was prosperity gospel evangelist Paula White asking God to reveal to the president the ability to know his will and the compassion "to yield to our better angels."  Not sure what all that means! And how about Franklin Graham referencing the timeliness of rain as a sign of God's blessing on the president.  Another head scratcher for me.

Just because God's name and biblical texts are used does not make one or one's country more godly.  Also, let us be reminded that biblical Israel is not the United States of America.

So, for those of us who bristle at  the name of Jesus being used as a profanity, I hope we equally bristle at the misapplication of God's name and Word for one's own glory and agenda.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Put Not Your Trust in Princes



The Wave by Katsushika Hokusai

Recent political events could overwhelm me and make me cynical, or they could propel me to look beyond my disappointment and anger over the human princes that are put in place to the God of the universe who keeps faith forever.  It is He whose authority I am to respect and obey above all and whose heart I am to emulate of executing justice for the oppressed, of providing food to the hungry, of lifting up those who are bowed down, of loving uprightness, of watching over refugees, of sustaining the powerless.  Government administrations, religious entities come and go, but the God of Jacob reigns forever!  Blessed are we whose help and hope are in Him.

PSALM 146

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!