Postmodern Parables

Fully Christian And Fully Asian

Fully Christian and fully Asian. I was privileged to visit with some Bataknese people here in Southeast Asia. On my last day of visit, my host arranged for a time of worship, dance, singing, and affirmation of our humanity. It was uniquely Batak, dance steps in the tribal way, singing songs in the language of their ancestors, and moving with everyone that only belong to their Bataknese identity. They welcomed me as one of their own. The leaders draped me in the traditional garb with its tribal colors. Everyone coached me to dance in the rhythms of their tradition.

I have never felt more fully human and fully Christian before this particular worship time of Bataknese dance and songs. I started praising God in unfamiliar tongues and moved with the people in the beat of their culture. I felt so close to God in a very strange way. Fully Christian and fully Asian. God be praised!


Looking With God’s Love

God is calling us in his love. This is a truth that is very simple that even children get it. We see people and treat our friends based on the Father’s love for them. However, in practice, most of us do not start this way. Our human tendency is to view other people according to their responses to God’s love. Let me explain.

God is the Father who calls us out of his love. He calls everyone to connect with his heart for all people and nations. He calls everyone to participate in his compassion for the world. This is God’s compassionate call. Jesus models for us this way of looking at people through God’s heart for the world. When Jesus faced rejection, he still continued seeing God’s love in the persons who rejected him. In Mark 10:21, a Rich Man approached him with questions about eternal life. The text says Jesus “looked at him with love.” Even though later, we read that this man rejected Jesus and walked away in great sadness. Jesus saw God’s love in his life. This was Jesus way. When he was with a Samaritan woman, with a Roman Centurion, with a Syrian mother, among the Jewish religious leaders, with a leper, or an impulsive fisherman, Jesus saw the Father’s love in their hearts and minds. Jesus is viewing the people around him with the Father’s compassionate call.

What does this mean for us today? One way of applying this is by putting a stop to our tendencies to focus on results, on giving priority to only those who are repentant. Many of our reports are on big numbers, on stories of flashy miracles, or on physical healing and spectacular events. We tend to see God’s love as only defined by people’s response to the call for repentance. We forget that God is calling everyone to his love, even the ones who reject him.

So, let us focus on seeing God’s love in people, even if there are no results. Even if a person rejects God, we still should love them. Results are good. Miracles and healing are wonderful. But these are not our goal in missions work. Our goal is to worship God by seeing his love in people’s hearts and lives. Let us celebrate God by seeing and hearing his compassionate call for everyone. 


A Tool For Feeding The Hungry (after a shooting tragedy)

(This post is my response and reflection in the aftermath of the tragic death of teachers and students, 19 children, of the Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, Texas.)

What would a weapon of war look like if it is turned into a tool for feeding the hungry? The prophets of the Old Testament have struggled to answer this question. Read Isaiah 2:4-5 and Micah 4:3-5, and you will see the imagery of swords being turned into plowshares.

“God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks… O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. You shall learn war no more, but you will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” (Is. 2:4-5 & Mic. 4:3-5)

So, what would an AK-47 (or AR-15) look like when it is remanufactured as a tool to help us cook food for the hungry? What would a nuclear ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) look like if we retro-fit it for food production and distribution? So, what is your answer?

If I were to ask Jesus this question, he will probably not have a direct answer (not because he does not know an AK-47 or an ICBM). He will probably say:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." --(Matthew 5:6-9)

Here is a song that I heard this Sunday morning, a song that captures my thoughts for this time of reflection:

God, Our Nation Feels The Loss. (Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. 2022)

God, our nation feels the loss
as our children pay the cost
for the violence we accept,
for the silence we have kept.
Rachel weeps for children gone;
God of love, this can’t go on!

Jesus, Lord, we hear you say,
“Don’t turn little ones away!”
May we build a kinder land
where our children understand:
Every child here matters more
that the guns we clamor for.

Holy Spirit, wind and flame,
send us out in Jesus’ name.
May we shout and say, “Enough!”
May we build a world of love—
till the sounds of weapons cease,
till our young can grow in peace.

Copyright © 2022 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.


Spirituality With a Hope and a Holy Unrest

“Growth in spirituality is never only a matter of confirming the known and familiar,” Charles Ringma states in his Dare To Journey (1992:110). He describes our life with Christ is more of radical transformation, a restlessness and a vision for what is to come, than contentment and conservation. He cites Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Romans saying: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Hope here is an application of joy and peace. God’s Spirit moves us forward, and thus, our spirituality grows.

Henri Nouwen tells us that “You are [a] Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in” (Open Hands. 1972:126). We keep moving forward being unsatisfied with the status quo and we keep saying that a new world is yet to come. Nouwen continues: “So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life” (1972). 

Where are you in your journey with Christ? Are you in a state of holy unrest? Is your hope in the Lord moving you forward?


“Why you should care about your multiracial friends” (By: Carmen Clemente)

According to the U.S. Census in 2020, the population of “Two or More Races” in America increased by 276% compared to the 2010 U.S. Census. Now, around 10.2% of the U.S. population identifies as being multiracial. Though the population of multiracial adults is growing at a high rate, it is still a relatively new concept. The U.S. Census Bureau had just introduced Americans’ ability to choose more than one race in 2000 (pewresearch.org).  

Growing up as a kid, and even now as an adult, I dreaded the little checkboxes under the question of what race you identify with when filling out surveys and applications.  

I identify as being biracial. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is Filipino. So, whenever I come across this predicament of which checkbox am I going to choose over the other, a part of me feels as though this indefinitely defines who I am. But it’s only a checkbox, right?  

It is only a game of boxes until I am forced to limit myself to one checkbox that I stumble across named “other.”  

I can’t help but feel the repercussions of this one word for people who identify with more than one ethnicity. All of our unique experiences and identity crises condensed into one word that doesn’t even serve our individuality justice because it dismisses celebration and instead puts us in a box that forbids us to express who we are.  

Instead, we are the “other,” the forgotten, the marginalized. Thankfully, often you will see the checkbox “two or more races,” but even then, this should not dismiss the millions of multiracial people whose stories significantly differ from one another.  

The sad truth is that this is only a small example compared to what multiracial people have to go through throughout their lives.  

My experience as a multiracial child is vastly different from that, say, of a half Hispanic half African American child. Even though we are both biracial, our unique experiences based on our parents’ monoracial identities are completely different.  

One misconception plays out when monoracial people approach or talk to their multiracial peers. A lot of the time, they assume that all of our experiences are the same. More often than not, there is more diversity within the multiracial community than people realize.  

Moreover, I feel disappointed when people think they have me all figured out once they learn that I’m half-white and half-Asian. I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to a Pew Research study, about one in four multiracial adults “have felt annoyed because people have made assumptions about their racial background.”

There is no shame in asking a person of more than one race what they are. There is more to us than our biological makeup. Many multiracial people identify with one race over another. And though we may identify with one race, the world may see us as the other. Working through one’s racial identity, especially when your DNA is made of multiple races, can be challenging.  

For example, I am an ethnic minority, but I also pass as white, so I simultaneously experience white privilege. I feel as though my biological makeup limits me from being able to fully understand and experience the monoracial culture of both my Caucasian and Asian sides. So, where does that leave me? Often, I feel as though I’m left in the margins, that my experiences aren’t valid enough.  

What I long for is for people to be able to recognize my struggle and show compassion. I’m not asking you to understand, but to show up and offer a helping hand when I lose vision of who I am.  

We live in a world that likes to compartmentalize and label, so for multiracial adults who have to navigate through their identity in this world like me, that can be tough.  

I wish I could give you a concrete and straightforward answer to how you can be there for your multiracial friends who may be silently or not so silently going through a racial identity crisis. If I can sum it all up in one word, the best I can give you is this:  

Listen.  

Give us space to express ourselves. Give us time to tell you who we are. Give us grace and understanding when we change our minds about our racial identity.  

And please, do not put us in boxes. 

 

(Carmen is my daughter. This article was published in the Asbury Collegian, April 22, 2022.)


Dancing With a Forgiving God

Have you ever danced with a homeless person? Have you ever sat down and ate a hearty dinner with someone not like you? Have you ever celebrated the Fourth of July or an extravagant birthday party with a person from the street who smells and for obvious reasons does not belong to the joyous occasion? You probably know by now the point of these questions: Being with persons who feel like they do not belong to the moment.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we read of the story of the son who squandered his inheritance and lived an immoral life. When he came to his senses he came back to his father. And in verse 20, we see the “father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” We saw the celebration that later issued because of the home coming. (See, Luke 15:11-32.) Here is a picture of forgiveness.

We need to remember that this parable precipitated because the Pharisees and scribes saw that Jesus was receiving sinners. He was eating and celebrating with them (Luke 15:2). As Dr. Green says: Jesus is inviting the religious person to come, and “not only to drop their concerns about Jesus but, indeed, to replicate his behavior in their own practices” (Joel B. Green. The Gospel of Luke. 1997:569).

Here are some questions for us to ponder: When was the last time you joined a celebration together with persons who are considered outcasts by today’s religious standards? Do you feel joy when you see people, those who do not belong to our church gatherings, when they come to a closer encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ? Would you be able to embrace someone, no matter how smelly and dirty they are, knowing that God himself have embraced everyone with his forgiving arms?

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2. NIV).


Love For Outsiders

Our Lectionary Readings from the Gospels is found in Luke 4:21-30, where Jesus mentions two foreigners, Zarephath and Naaman. These two are outsiders, outside of the promise for the Chosen People, and yet they received God’s blessings, God’s provision and healing. As a result, “all in the synagogue were filled with wrath” (verse 28).   

When was the last time you saw an outsider receive God’s goodness and, as a result, your heart was troubled?

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Do you feel like an outsider or one of the Chosen People?

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!” (Psalm 71:1-2).

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.” (1 Corinthians 13:4. MSG)


Miss Trie's Story

“I am sorry for all the lies I told you.” Ms. Trie is going around asking forgiveness from her friends and relatives. You see, Ms. Trie is a new Christian. In the past, she worked as a fortune teller. She would foretell people their future and use her tarot card to promise healing for the sick. She would asked money in exchange for her services. Now, she has given her life to Jesus. She expresses this decision by burning all her books and other tools of the trade of fortune telling. She continues in this walk of faith by going around her social circle, the ones whom she read their palm and did the tarot reading, asking their forgiveness for all her deceitfulness in the past. She tells them, “Those were all lies, because only Jesus knows the future.”

Miss Trie's is from Country-VN, where one of our cross cultural worker is located. She is one of our newest Free Methodist in the global work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, do you have a similar story, like that of Ms. Trie?


New Praise Song (Psalm 146)

This week’s Lectionary Gospel Reading is from Mary’s song, The Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1:46-55. There are several themes running through the song. One dominant thought is the theme of justice—with the lines “God sending the rich empty” and “God bringing the mighty ones from their thrones,” among others. 

 

Last November 12, 2021, I wrote a song which speaks of God’s justice in the land. This song, “New Praise Song,” is based on a reading of Psalm 146. I hope that as you listen to the demo song I made, it will lead you to prayer and move you to compassion for the poor and those who are suffering among us.

 

New Praise Song (Psalm 146)

November 12 (2021)

 

Praise the Father, Praise the Son

Praise the Spirit, The Three in One.

Praise the God who created all.

Praise the Savior, we hear His call.

 

Sing a new song to our King.

All the earth, this (good) news we bring.

Oh my soul, “Praise the Lord!”

Everyone now in one accord.

 

Hallelujah! What a story!

Our Lord and God, He sets the prisoner free.

Hallelujah! The blind will see.

He takes our burdens and throws them to the sea.

 

Hallelujah! This is the day!

The widows, the orphans; God will help them stay.

Hallelujah! The stranger will say:

“The Lord reigns! He takes our sins away.”

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

David W. Clemente

November 2021

 

Illinois, USA


An Angel's Story

At one time, the angels were gathered right before the moment of the first Christmas. They were all discussing ways of announcing the Messiah’s birth. One veteran angel said: “Let us gather the heavenly host, an army of our kind, and appear to the people in the heavens right above them. Let us display our power and shine a heavenly light around them. Let us sing of God’s glory and announce our presence with loud trumpet sounds. Let us declare the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.” Everyone seemed to agree, except one young angel.

This young angel suggested something different. She said: “Why don’t we tone it down a little bit so that we do not scare away these earthlings. Let us use a gentle twinkling star instead. We can use a star from the east to encourage the people to search their sacred writings of a prophecy about the birth of the Messiah. Then, we can move this star to guide those who are willing to look for the Messiah.” All the angels disagreed with her, and followed the idea of the veteran angel. So, that night of the Messiah’s birth, one Chief Angel looked around for a good place to make the cosmic announcement. She chose a particular field where people and sheep were huddled together in one area.

“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9. MSG).

The Chief Angel saw the fear in the people’s eyes. She raised her hand and stopped all the blazing light and the sound of the marching army. She said: “Let me talk to these earthlings and go down to their level so that they can understand the announcement we are making.”

“The angel said, ‘Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:10-12. MSG).

At that moment, the angels saw the fear vanishing from the people’s faces. They started talking to each other with excitement. They wanted to see the Infant-Savior that they have heard from their grandmothers and grandfathers. It is at this point that the veteran angel made another suggestion. He said: “I think this is a good time to continue our announcement with singing and loud cosmic celebrations.”

“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises. Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. ‘Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.’” (Luke 2:13-15. MSG).

At another time, about two years later after the first Christmas, the angels were gathered together to discuss some ways of announcing the coming of the Messiah to the people from the East. One young angel suggested using a twinkling star to encourage the people to search their sacred writings and guide them to where the Savior was staying. And all the angels agreed with her. You know the story right? You can read this in The Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12, the Story of the Magis.

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(By: David W. Clemente. 2021. Illinois, USA)