Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent’s Promises

Advent’s Promises

“Adventus” means coming.  Christians believe that Advent is not only the beginning of the liturgical year; we also believe that it is the beginning and the end of our spiritual posture before God.  Advent sets us on our way to hope in the promise that Jesus came to save, and will come again to judge.  To our joy, we discover that in faith Christ’s judgment is our salvation.

God is coming to be with us is a message as old as human existence as told in the Bible.  In Genesis 3:8, we read, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”

Awareness of God’s presence is not a welcome realization!  It seems that Adam and Eve’s response to “God with us” was to hide.  I suppose that we share their dread, because we have been hiding from God since the beginning of our own awaking that God is with us.  We sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel”, yet, our hearts whisper, “not yet, not now”! Quick, cover our shame!

We fear God’s judgment of our limitless cravings that bend us to mere self-satisfactions.    Yet, like a child whose bravery insists that she is able to stand and to run on her own, quickly loses her courage when she discovers she has run too far, and run out of sight of Mom and Dad.  She discovers that she has lost the arms of security and found the embrace of despair.

While on one hand we fear Immanuel, “God with us”, as condemnation of our willfulness, on the other hand we fear, “God with us”, as a loss of freedom.  Immanuel exposes our freedom as bondage to self as solitary confinement that separates us from any contentment in fellowship with others and with God, The OTHER.

We are filled with dreadful discontent that exposes our broken sacred image of God.  He is coming.  We wait.  He arrives with healing in His wings!  He is born that we no more may die.  He gives us second birth.  Our image is reclaimed and restored in His coming.

As a child I remember the thrill of hiding from my mother’s watchful eyes.
Freed from her sentry, my brothers and I would run to the creek to dive naked into its warm splendid wetness.  We would splash and have water fights.  I would swing from a rope and fly to free fall into the open arms of sky and water. 

Oh, no!  I hit a tree buried in the creek’s soft bottom.  Bloodied, and full of fear, I sprang from the water running for home.  Running for mother!  My brother caught up with me and shook me.  “Are you crazy?  You’re OK!  It’s just a scratch!  Mother will punish us, when she sees your foolish, broken face. 

I shouted in pain, and rage, and guilt, and faith, and hope, “I’m going home!”  I ran as fast as I could.  Naked, bleeding, I threw my bloody body into my mother’s lap!  I looked up into the eyes of Immanuel, “God with us”, judgment and salvation.

O come, O come, Immanuel!  Amen!

English Congregation's Calendar Year B

English Congregation’s Calendar    Year B

November 4          Preacher, The Rev. Graham Ogden

November 11         Remembrance of WW II POWs in Taiwan
                              Preacher, Steven Schaufele, Ph. D., Lay Reader

November 18         Father Herbert Barker

November 22         American Thanksgiving Day

November 25          Christ the King Sunday
                                Combined Service, English & Chinese

Advent – Christmas – Epiphany Year C

December 2      Candle of Hope, The Prophets’ Hope

December 9     Candle of Peace, Shepherds’ Lessons and Carols

December 16     Candle of Gaudete (Joy), The Magi’s Joy

December 23     Candle of Love, Waiting for our Savior’s Love

December 24     Combined English and Chinese Christmas Eve   
                           Candle Light Service 8PM

December 25      No English or Chinese Service

December 30         The Rev. Thomas Reese, Rector, St. Luke’s Church Forrest Hills, New York  [Father Barker on holiday in USA.]

January 6         The Epiphany, The Rev. Thomas Reese

January 13         First Sunday after Epiphany
The Rev. Thomas Reese

January 20         Second Sunday after Epiphany
Father Herbert Barker

January 27                  Third Sunday after Epiphany [Annual Church Meeting]
                           Father Herbert Barker

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Spirit Of Pentecost Calls Us To Live Between Kingdoms

          Koinonia is the New Testament name for church. Koinonia means the fellowship of Christian communion through personal, intimate participation. The Day of Pentecost is celebrated as the birthday of the church. On the Day of Pentecost God poured out his Spirit on all flesh creating a new people of God who are called to higher vocations of life that is lived in between now and forever more as compassion.

          Koinonia manifests the union of The Holy Spirit and human spirit. It is the outward reality of an inward spiritual, communal consciousness. It is an ever-present community that feasts constantly in the company of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God and the Son of Man. Koinonia’s communion is a table fellowship whose feasting lives within circles of love and service among its members who move to encircle the whole world. No one is left out. Nothing in all creation is beyond its embrace.

          Therefore, Koinonia is a people of God revealing its Spirit as Christian communion. This fellowship is a new people inhaling God’s Spirit and exhaling His charity and truth in the world. Koinonia is a people on fire with a Holy compassion that heals human life.

          The Christian church then, understood as Koinonia, is a people born in the spirit on the of the Day Pentecost who become family members and citizens of a community that lives between worldly kingdoms and the spiritual Kingdom of God. The church seen as Koinonia is not a physical structure, or a social organization, or a corporate association. It is the living body of Christ. It is a human community with holy and spiritual dimensions. Koinonia is a people who live in solidarity through solicitude between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God.

          What does it mean to live in solidarity through solicitude? What does it mean to live between the kingdoms of earth and heaven? What is life for a people who inhabit a world present, and a world eternally “be-coming”? We are a people conceived as a body perpetually moving in directions of a Kingdom that is eternally coming into being. We live between kingdoms, seen and unseen.

          During the 26 weeks that mark the Sundays in the liturgical year after the Day of Pentecost, we will seek to understand our lives as a fellowship in communion that is lived out between heaven and earth. We are a people with feet in the kingdoms of this world, but who have a mind and heart aware that it is out of place here, and that we have an urgent call and pull to reach out to unknown places. We have an insatiable craving for an impenetrable home. We are always coming and becoming. We live in an awareness of being in between kingdoms, worlds, and one another. We know that we are connected. Yet, we pretend that we are private, and separate from the human herd, but we are ever ready to run to the herd’s protective intimacy at the slightest awareness of life threatening challenges from any hostile environment, physical, social, or spiritual.

          I will preach a series of 20 sermons on the Sundays after the Day of Pentecost that will explore an understanding of our life as lived in the “between” heaven and earth, between now, and eternity.

          I invite you all to join me on this odyssey. The Holy Spirit shall guide us in the wilderness of this world’s illusions toward sanctuaries of Koinonia that is characterized as a people of God who live compassionately in love with all creation. We shall journey as companions sharing in the giving and receiving of limitless hospitality and boundless mercy. We seek to hear and to follow God’s higher callings to love Him whole-heartedly, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

          We hope to grow as a Spirit filled people, a holy community whose holiness is measured only by its compassionate hospitality for the world.

          For the Spirit already has set us on fire with the wonder that He sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved through Him. This same Spirit kindles our lives with healing powers that make us whole and at one with the world.

          You all are invited to gather with us as we feast in God’s goodness and mercies. Join us in prayerful openness to God’s empowering callings to love the world whole.

          We will come to know and live by “shepherding love” that sustains our spirit filled life that we live between now and ever after. The Lord is our Good Shepherd who is ever present to guide and guard us as we journey this life between earth and heaven.

          We will come to realize and to live out the meaning of our creed that is to love one another as God loves us. We become His people daily, as He is our God eternally.

          We shall listen for God’s commissioning and sending to serve, and not to be served, to minister, and not to be ministered unto. Our life in between the kingdoms of now and His Kingdom coming is lived out as a time of God’s out pouring Spirit that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

          We shall live between now and not yet. Every day and every coming day is the last day! Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved every day, any day. Today is truely the first and last day of the rest of your life.

                                                  Joel 2:28-32

                           `In the last days it will be, God declares,

                            that I will pour out my Spirit upon 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 upon my slaves, both men and women,

                           in those days I will pour out my Spirit;

                          and they shall prophesy.

                         And I will show portents in the heaven above

                         and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

                         The sun shall be turned to darkness

                         and the moon to blood,

                         before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.

                    Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "

                            The Day of Pentecost is today. Amen.

The Gospel According to Herb. B., Chaplain at the Church of “Shepherding Love”, [Mu Ai Tang---Good Shepherd Church, Shilin, Taipei, Taiwan]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer 2012 Calendar


[Each of the Sundays following the Day of Pentecost we will consider the meaning of the church as a new people of God. I will be giving a series of 20 sermons that will explore the meaning of our life as a people of God, the Church, who are receiving the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit that we may be about our Father’s business.]

June 10          
2nd Sunday after Pentecost English Service 0930
Pentecost Summer Series, Sermon # 1: “Leaving Mom, Dad and our secular culture in the boat to follow Jesus in Our Father’s business”.
Celebrant and Preacher: Father Herbert J. Barker

June 17
3rd Sunday after Pentecost English Service 0930
Sermon # 2 “Seeds of the Kingdom, a call to harvest its fruits.”
Celebrant and Preacher: Father Herbert J. Barker

June 24
4th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 8
Combined Eng/Mandarin Chinese Service 0930
Celebrant and Preacher: Father Herbert J. Barker

July 1
Our Rector, The Rev. Lily Chang will be away for three weeks to attend General Conference in the USA. Let us keep her and our Church’s visions in our prayers.

5th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 9
English Service 0930 Mandarin Chinese Service 1100
Pentecost Sermon #3 “Faith makes us well.”
Celebrant and Preacher: Father Herbert J. Barker

July 8
6th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 10
English Service 0930 Mandarin Chinese Service 1100
Celebrant and Preacher: Father Herbert J. Barker

July 15
5th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 11
English Service 0930
Celebrant and Preacher: Father Herbert J. Barker

July 22
6th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 12
Combined English/Mandarin Chinese Service 0930
Celebrant and Preacher: The Rev. Lily Chang, Rector

July 29
7th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 13
English Service 0930
Celebrant and Preacher: The Rev. Lily Chang, Rector

August 5
8th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 14
English Service 0930
Celebrant & Preacher: Graham Ogden, Ph.D.

August 12
9th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 15
English Service 0930
Celebrant & Preacher: Graham Ogden, Ph.D.

August 19
10th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 16
English Service 0930
Celebrant and Preacher: The Rev. Lily Chang, Rector

August 26
11th Sunday After Pentecost Proper 17
Combined English/Mandarin Chinese Service 0930
Celebrant and Preacher: The Rev. Lily Chang, Rector

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Life, Is life beyond the tomb!

  "Rejoice, believe, trust  that it is life, not death that has no limits."
 [A paraphrase from "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent, Turning toward Home!

Since Lent is a period of turning, let us make a radical turn this year!
For most of our conscious religious lives, Lent has been understood as “giving up”.  I was challenged by a colleague during lunch this week with, “What are you giving up for Lent?  From how you are eating, there surely is no fasting in your plan for Lent!”
My facetious response was, “I’ll be feasting this Lent in celebration of the Feast that awaits me at Easter!”
After thinking about that response, I realized that ironically, Lent is open to an understanding that it is a time for embracing deep gratitude for Christ’s mercies.     Grateful, rejoicing can surely lead us into thankful feasting, rather than leading us to fasting and meditations that highlight our shortcomings, or worse, our penitential piety, or our traditional religiosity. We could consider a return home during these 40 days as a journey of festive celebrations!  No!  Let us consider it.
We all know that Lent is 40 days of preparation to ready us to share in the Passion of Christ----Holy Week, His Death and His Resurrection.  Through disciplines of prayer, self-examination, self-denial, repentance, and almsgiving (mercy gifts) we prepare to turn from our self-centered life to one that is centered upon The Other (God) and others.
In short, this is a period to turn toward Home.  Lent is a time for us to turn toward our true self.  Lent is the moment when we are called to lift our head and eyes beyond our self centered, broken promises, and our self fabricated broken dreams.  We are called to look toward forgiveness, and healing, and reunion with Love that transcends all understanding.  It is not only Thomas Wolf that calls angles to look homeward.  Jesus calls us to look homeward as His angels, and brothers, and sisters.  
Think I’m going home!  Think I’m going back to the place where I belong!  No more thinking “about” going home; I’m going home this Lent.
It is not in sadness that you and I face going home.  I remember when I was “let loose” from class; and I headed home after school that it was with a sense of excitement and joy.  I remember that the closer that I got to home that I began to skip, and then at the last, I would begin to run to Mom’s kitchen where she was ready to embrace me, and where gingerbread and milk began the feast. 
Going home became a time for growing gladness and joyful expectation of homecoming’s loving embrace.  Going home gave no space or time for guilt or shame or self-incriminations.  As I walked, skipped, ran, all these fell away along the trek to my mother’s open heart.
I do believe that during our Lenten’s meditations, and ruminations of the “place and condition” of our lives that rather than turning inward to self, because that is where we are obsessively trapped already; let us turn outward toward God the Father and reflect upon going home! 

Lily Chang, our rector, has called for our congregation to read and study Henri J. M. Nouwen’s book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.  As I have been meditating on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, I see that it is a wonderful framework or foundation upon which to consider a new posture for Lent.  It is a posture of turning toward home.  It is a movement to begin to walk, then skip, then run home to Our Heavenly Father.  The skipping, the rejoicing, Yes, and feasting along the way home is in character with the anticipation of the feast that our welcoming Father is readying for us. 

With this posture of running home toward love and grace, I believe that Lent’s journey homeward is not framed in self denial, but is rapped in affirmation of belonging to a loving Father who awaits my home coming.  That stance can truly prepare us to walk with Jesus, His Son, toward Heaven’s resurrection’s gate to ever lasting life in union with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit.

No longer ask yourself, or others, “What am I, or you, giving up for Lent?”  Declare instead, I am dropping everything, letting go of everything, letting loose of everything!  I’m heading home!

Turn for home this Lent!  Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Calendar 2012 Epiphany-Lent-Easter

Our Calendar    "Come, join our journey through 2012!"

January 15, 2012      
2nd Epiphany   Pot Luck Fellowship Lunch

January 22                 
Combined English/Mandarin Service
Chinese New Year’s Eve

January 29                 
4th Sunday in Epiphany / Ordinary Time

February 5               
Fr. Herb B.  on Leave 5-19 February
The Rev. Dr. Graham Ogden will  be serving us for            
 two Sundays.  Father Graham is a long time member 
 of the Church of the Good Shepherd and a world renown Old Testament scholar.

February 12             
Father Ogden, Celebrating and Preaching

February 19             
7 Epiphany/Ordinary Time 
The Rev. Lily Chang: Celebrating
Preacher: Catherine Lee, Missionary to the Taiwan Episcopal Diocese

February 22               
Ash Wednesday----No Service

February 25             
1st Confirmation Class: Time and Place TBA

February 26               
1st Lent--Ashes will be dispensed to the congregation

February 26                
Combined English/Mandarin Service
Church Annual Meeting
Vestry Meeting

March 2/3                  
Taiwan   Diocesan Convention

March 11                  
Congregational Pot Luck Fellowships

March 18                  
Lenten Lunch and Movie Review with Fr. Herb B.

March 25                 
Lenten Lunch   and Movie Review with Fr Herb B.
Movie Review TBA

April 1                     
Palm Sunday

April 5                     
Maundy Thursday Service TBA

April 6                    
Good Friday Service at Noon

April 7                    
Last Confirmation Class
Easter Vigil  8PM

April  8                   
Easter Primary Service  
English at 9:30AM/11AM Mandarin
English Congregation Easter Pot Luck Fellowship Lunch 
Easter Egg Hunt after lunch

May 27                   

Monday, January 9, 2012

Epiphany: A Light Home

As we assign Christmas 2011 to “Christmases Past”, we are like the shepherds returning home to the fields to wandering among their sheep always searching for green pastures.  Like the three wise men, we too make our way home by a different way.  All eyes are now turned away from the manger and the “glad tidings” that had been told us in lessons and carols and by angels. We too are eager to get on with the New Year’s promises and challenges that are now illuminated by Jesus, the light of the world.

Epiphany is a curious Feast of the Church.  It marks the coming of the three Kings from the East, or wise men, who are some times called the Magi, which means the magicians.  They were three astrologists who studied the lights of the heavens.
The visit of these three wise men to Jesus’ birth place is only reported in St. Matthew’s Gospel. We seem to get confused about the time of their arrival at the manger.   We have them in our mind following the star on Christmas Eve to Bethlehem and arriving in time to witness the newborn Jesus.  They fill out the manger scene: shepherds and sheep, Mary and Joseph, ox and ass, who are all adoring this child sleeping in a stable.
Yet, on our liturgical calendar, we celebrate their arrival on January 6, 12 days after Jesus’ birth.  They come; they see; they present gifts; and they return to their home by a different route to avoid King Herod.  It was revealed in a dream to the three wise men that King Herod seeks the child to kill him, because he believes that this child is a contender for his throne of David.  Already we see that even at his birth, Jesus is confronted with threats of death. 
We may be confused about the timing of the arrival of the three wise at the manger.  We may be confounded by the hostility toward Jesus.  In spite of these quandaries, most of us Christians see and believe in the Nativity story as an appearing of God on earth.
The English word, "Epiphany" comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means, "appearing" or "revealing." Epiphany focuses on God's self-revelation in Jesus the Savior. 
Epiphany is the sum of Advent and Christmas, in many ways.  The Epiphany is the Feast that gives us a flash of light that reveals to us even now who Jesus is.  We understand his purpose for us; and we understand our calling in receiving him as our savior.
The three wise men got it right.  This child is named, “Jesus” that means, “God Saves”.  God is saving us from alienation from heaven and from one another
See! The wise men are teaching us in their visitation that Jesus, “God Saves”, is joining us in solidarity with human flesh.  This union of divine spirit with human flesh is healing our fractured nature.  Jesus mends our hearts and minds and spirit with the gift of solicitude with strangers who are to be embraced as family members, friends, and as mutual citizens in the Kingdom of God.
I pray that we all may “get it”! I hope that we understand this message of sharing an epiphany, a revelation, that in Jesus we become one with God and humanity.  I pray that we in the congregations of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd may come to believe that by giving ourselves in a relationship with Jesus that our common life is revealed as the Body of Christ in Taiwan.  We become a living community of koinonia that is communion by intimate participation with one another in Christ Jesus.
         When I was a boy growing up in Nurnberg, Germany, like the wise men, I saw the revealed at Christmas.  I came to understand the message of Epiphany in a life changing way.  For weeks during Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, our family would sing hymns around my mother as she played the piano.  One hymn claimed my mind and heart and my life.
“We’ve a story to tell to the Nations”
We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of truth and light,
A story of peace and light’
For the darkness shall turn to the dawning,
And the dawing to noonday bright;
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
The kingdom of love and light.

This hymn became my theme song.  It became the guiding vision of my life.  It was a light that guided me through years of education and training for ordination.  I sang it in times of loses of loved ones.  It comforted me as I endured challenges of military conflicts as an Army and Navy Chaplain.  These words give me courage to face every kind of spiritual testing. Its words and rhythms’ even now lead me to His ministry here at the Good Shepherd Church in Taiwan.
 After more than 50 years, I still have a story to tell to the nations that shall turn hearts to the right.  It is a story of truth, mercy, peace, love and light.   I give myself to its telling each day.  
In telling His story, I become at one with God who saves.  I become atoned with all the families of dust.

May you all see Jesus as Epiphany, the very light of God on earth.  Its light guides us home. May we tell our Epiphany story along the way.

[An Epistle to the English Congregation of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Shilin, Taipei, Taiwan 
Father Herb. B., Priest-in-Charge]