“There is no coffee?” one was kind of murmuring. “No coffee, either water or ice tea,” someone
was murmuring back. As I looked around
the magnificent conference room, I found myself among a large crowd of men in
black. Predominantly white, a few black,
and a dozen or so Asian, everyone was in black pants, black shirt, and clerical
For a moment or two, I truly felt like a monk in their
midst. “Father, which diocese are you
from?” asking a priest, sitting on my left, who had a big smile on his face. “Father, I am a Lutheran. I came from Temple City
in Los Angeles,”
I smiled back. “Oh, a Catholic in exile,
Los Angeles Diocese. Welcome!” So, I was
It was the 41st Annual Catholic Renewal
Convention, convened at Anaheim,
sponsored by Southern California Renewal Communities. As you hold the pastoral in hand this morning,
thousands charismatic Catholics gathered there are also celebrating their
Sunday morning Mass and will have their closing liturgy this afternoon. What drew me to the special gathering on
Thursday August 30 was a monumental and unprecedented event called “Christ Triumphant,”
designed for priests.
It felt like a feast to me as I enjoyed listening to some
world-renowned experts in exorcism and deliverance ministry. Principal subject of the book and major
motion picture, “The Rite,” Father Gary Thomas gave a talk on “Exorcism: Myths,
Facts and Mystery.” An educator in
Psychiatric Nursing, Dr. Margarett Schlientz gave “A Mental Healthcare
Professional’s Look at Exorcism.” An
Expert in Demonology, Father Jose Antonio Fortea, from the Diocese of Madrid,
Spain, dealt with relevant “Pastoral Issues” in this ministry. Exorcists Father James Mancini and Father
Kenneth Nobrega shared vivid testimonies of God’s power for healing and
spiritual freedom in their respective pastoral encounters in Little
Rock, AR and Oakland, CA…
Our Lord Jesus performed exorcisms and deliverance. We know that from our Gospels. Those of us, who engage the Gospel of Mark in
our Bible Study, have been marveled by this ministry of our Lord. We have talked about evil possession and its
symptoms, discussed the differences between an ordinary illness and evil
possession, and wondered how to discern emotional, psychological, mental, and
spiritual issues. In our experiences,
many have seen the two faces of evil, one personal, one institutional. Believing that the Church has received the
power and office of exorcizing and deliverance, we have also confidently
undertaken to repulse the attacks and deceits of the devil.
Our faith and confidence comes from Psalm 68: “God arises: His
enemies are scattered and his foes flee before him. As smoke is blown away by the wind, as wax
melts before the fire, the wicked will perish before God.” So, let us continue to humbly prostrate
ourselves before God and beseech him to deliver us by his power from all the
tyranny of the infernal spirits, from their snares, their lies and their
furious wickedness. Deign, O LORD, to
grant us your powerful protection and to keep us safe and sound. We beseech you through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen +
My stylist was in her 30s, a short lady in her blue jeans. Speaking with a strong accent, she was effective enough, with much eye contact, hand gesture, and body language, to make herself understood. I almost had no difficulty in our communication. She seemed easy-going and relaxed, so much so, that she even took a long telephone call half way through my haircut. Of course, she apologized for that break, and did not pick it up for a second time though that cell phone kept ringing every three or five minutes. She’s busy, I thought to myself, maybe many clients calling to make an appointment.
Her name is Maria. If you hold this pastoral in hand this morning and look at my new haircut, you may agree that Maria did a good job. At least, I think so. Recently I have switched from my long time Chinese stylist in San Gabriel to this place called Pro-Cut, much closer and wouldn’t have to wait too long. Tell you the truth, it takes a lot of courage to switch. For one thing, all the six stylists, including one gentleman I used to call barber, speak Spanish, I assumed their first language. Somehow, Calvin and I started to like this place. I know here and there he can pick up a few words from time to time.
During that seemingly rather long telephone break, I noticed there’s a piece of art, a religious item, on her counter right before the shining mirror. Ivory-looking porcelain, it was the icon of Virgin Mary, I recognized. So, our conversation was directed to religion and diaspora. Maria told me that Virgen De Guadalupe was from Mexico City, a dear reminder of her home country which she had left some twenty years ago. I asked if she still had family members in Mexico. It turned out that six of her eight siblings are now in the States. Her mom used to come for a visit every year, but not the last three years as the economy struggled, from bad to worse.
“Do you actually pray to Virgin Mary?” I was truly curious. “Oh, yes, I pray to her every day,” Maria’s big eyes turned even bigger. Clearly, the question turned her on. For the next ten minutes or so, her cutting slowed down and talking sped up. She gave me an intensive class from Genesis to Revelation. I have to tell you, I truly enjoyed my Catholic haircut. Maria is a super catechist. To refresh our memory, the Mother of God, was proclaimed by Pope John Paul II, Patroness of the Americas and Protectress of Unborn Children, in 1999; the same year, when Lutherans and Roman Catholics reached historic agreement in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, a divisive issue that dates back to the 16th century.
“Do you read the Bible?” I somewhat regretted a little bit right after the question was out of my mouth. “Oh, yes!” Maria did not seem to mind what question I had asked, “I read my Bible every day. You have to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you, open your eyes and see Jesus in the Bible.” Then, she stopped the trimming, haircut almost done at that point, turned around, and pulled out a bulletin from a purse on her counter. “Of course, you don’t understand the program. It’s in Spanish. But here is our church website. You can check us out. This copy is for you.” Thanking her, I thought to myself: I not only had a Catholic haircut, I had an Evangelical Catholic haircut. Brothers and sisters, would you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and prompt you in a way that you are also open and comfortable in sharing your faith in Jesus?
As I was sitting there watching people stream into the church, each of you and your faces flashed through my mind. Suddenly I realized I was not really used to being in a different church on a Sunday morning. For the very first time since early 2009, I was away from Bethlehem, my home congregation, on a Sunday. I quickly said a prayer for all of you before the special service began at 10 am in San Diego, July 1, 2012.
The service turned out to be an elaborate celebration, thanksgiving, installation, speeches, and the Holy Communion. After 40 years as pastor of 2 churches in Honolulu and San Diego followed by an additional 24 years developing a China ministry, my spiritual father, the Rev. Jow, was finally retiring. Some 350 congregations, families, and friends gathered on this special Sunday to honor him and also witness the leadership transition. I was honored to be asked to provide the invocation. Jenny and I rejoiced with all of them!
Yet, all of sudden, we felt like we were thrown down from a mountain top into a deep valley the following day we arrived back from San Diego. “Louisa fell and terribly hurt herself!” The two of you who called obviously were anxious to make sure I was notified. Jenny and I were truly worried when we heard that her broken glasses cut into her face, by her right eye. Nine stitches, Louisa coughed really bad the moment I walked into her room in San Gabriel Medical Center on Tuesday morning. She also fought the suction, according to a Filipino nurse who thought I was a Catholic priest. “Must hurt a lot,” Jenny’s deep concern was all on her face when I briefed her afterward. We are feeling much pain for our beloved Louisa.
The nurse was not the only one who mistook me as a priest. On my way out when I saw a Deputy Sheriff in the hall way and asked her if everything was alright, she said, “Oh, yes, I have an inmate here. But, Father, would you mind coming in and say a prayer for him?” It turned out that she was a Catholic and had several relatives serving as priests. Her inmate, a seemingly decent Vietnamese Chinese man, right hand handcuffed on his bed, stabbed his wife after suspicion and anger took control of him believing that she had an affair. Wife still in a trauma unit in Pasadena, two little children in the custody of grandparents, this Mr. Ong ended up with a heart problem. He broke down crying after I prayed for him, his wife and children. The man regretted, repented and prayed for God’s forgiveness and for his wife’s forgiveness… I just felt my own heart was broken for them.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23). The Word was lingering on my mind all day Independence Day, seemingly preparing me for something. Then, the worst of the week hit on Thursday when I was shocked and could hardly believe that our Brother Stephen had passed away. Why? He was still so young, so energetic, and so dedicated to an active service in the church, so faithful that he never missed a Sunday the last few years except a few trips to Florida? As I am sitting here in the office by myself on this Friday evening, my heart is heavy. While I could not make sense, this word came to mind: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” I opened my Bible and looked at the verse and its context. The paragraph begins with verse 9 “Love must be sincere” and ends in verse 21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12). As our hearts all pour out for the Umina family, I trust that your love is sincere and that your good will overcome evil.
After a good corn beef sandwich lunch, Judy, Marian and I
joined several hundreds of other pastors, lay leaders, and congregational
representatives in the rite for opening of the Synod Assembly at Glendale
Hilton on the afternoon of June 1, 2012.
We had a good time starting the two day conference. Sitting across the table was a gentleman
attracting, I have to admit, more of my attention than the first two speakers
The man had both sides of his head clean shaved and a combed
back Mohawk with a styled pigtail in the back.
My first thought: Calvin would
think it cool. I have a dear pastor
friend, a man of God, who styles a pigtail, kind of unique in the synod. But could this man be a pastor too? I kept wondering. If so, he would be the first Mohawk pastor I
would truly like to meet.
However, there’s more about this man that drew my
attention. On his left ear, he was
wearing a whole bunch of gold rings.
After secretly staring at that ear for a while, I still could not tell
how many rings. I bet my two lady
representatives were equally curious. So
in the end, I could not help but initiate a conversation with the man, who had
smiled across the table from time to time and looked very friendly.
“You look Asian, are you Asian or are you an Indian?” I was
eager to find out. “Oh, no, I am Mexican
American, I am from Long Beach,”
the man seemed equally eager to engage a conversation. “Is that a cultural thing? You’re wearing many ear rings?” I could not
wait, wondering it might be a tribal cultural thing. “Oh, no, it is not. I have 22 rings on my ear, standing for the
22 years I have married to my husband, each ring for one year.”
Man, that’s quite a statement! For a moment or two, I was not sure what to
say. But when I eventually put myself
back together, I did say something like “Good for you! A very nice testimony of your
relationship.” That evening as I drove
home, I thought of Corinthians, not their divisions in the church there, not
their sexual immorality, but a few words of Paul in his personal requests. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith;
be men of courage; be strong. Do
everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
No mistake, this man from Long Beach wears those rings in love. His statement is one of love and commitment
to the significant other in his relationship.
Certainly, he is also bold, firm, and courageous enough to share who he
is in a church that has been splitting and continues to divide over the issue
of such an orientation. Looking back, I
thought to myself, what an encounter at this Assembly!
I also think of our men and women. In our Women’s Bible Study the other day, we
had a wonderful discussion to be courageous in putting our lamp on its
stand. While “This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine” is still ringing at ear, our men have eagerly launched
the Men’s Bible Study, the first of its kind in many years. God calls us to be men of courage and to be
on our guard. As we seek to let it
shine, the Word of God is shaping our identity, renewed day by day, both men
and women, into a people of faith, people of courage, and a people that are
strong and do everything in love. For
that, all glory be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Late afternoon on Friday I spent two hours visiting with the
Lutz family. It’s my first visit since
the mother Carrol passed away a short while ago. After they stopped all the hospice medication
and before her passing, I was asked to perform the Last Rites for her in the
presence of her husband Pete and three adult daughters. It’s a very emotional experience for all of
us. However, that final prayer gave Carrol
a tremendous sense of peace, according to the family. She told everyone she was made right with her
God. And eventually Carrol did make a
peaceful life transition.
What surprised me was a question that one daughter asked toward
the end of the many things we had talked about.
We went through a list of things in preparation for the memorial service
the family had asked me to do, the scriptures, the music, the flowers, the
pictures, and the reception… and etc.
All of a sudden, Rhonda asked, “How is Chen Guang-cheng doing? Will he be able to get out of China? I pray he will.” Focused on the family’s mourning and grief, I
was caught off guard as I did not expect an American woman in the midst of her
own loss and sorrows was so concerned for the fate of a Chinese civil rights activist
and would pray for his deliverance.
Of course, Chen has been in the spotlight ever since this blind
lawyer activist miraculously escaped his house arrest in his home village on
April 22, 2012. Then he commanded a
prominence in all the major media coverage: Under the US protection; Walking
out of the US Embassy in Beijing; Chen’s saga showing fallacy of the Chinese
‘harmonious society’; Why America must save Chen; Secret diplomacy with Beijing
put American credibility on the line; then Chen speaking to the US
Congregational Hearing on a cell phone…
Becoming known for organizing a class-action lawsuit against
his city and province for excessive enforcement and brutality of forced
abortion in line with the one-child policy, the blind lawyer was imprisoned by
the regime for 4 years followed by house arrest for some 19 month before his
escape. His case has received sustained
international attention, with the US State Department, the British Foreign
Secretary, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. I would encourage you to join Rhonda and many
others in praying for Chen and his family.
I trust that the good LORD will deliver them from the heavy hands of
As I continue upholding Chen and his family in my thoughts,
some of President Obama’s words are still ringing at my ear: “To those who
cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know
that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if
you are willing to unclench your fist.”
The name Guang Cheng literally translates “Light” and “Integrity.” Isn’t that something we all look for, even
here in America? Even here at Bethlehem our own community? “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his
love endures forever. Let the redeemed
of the LORD say this – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he
gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south” (Psalm 107). That deliverance will come to the Chen family,
and that redemption will come upon us.
We shall all say, the Lord is good.
I was chatting with a lady yesterday after she had arrived
back from a memorial service in the morning.
Among some sweet memories of the deceased, a common friend of ours, she
also shared with me a precious personal experience that one her own family member
came back and visited her shortly after he had passed away. “He was paralyzed for many years and had been
in wheelchair,” she said, “but, I saw him walking! He came by as if checking on me to make sure
I was doing alright…”
Somehow, a question arose as we shared the blessed assurance
that one day we would see our family again who had gone before us to
heaven. “But I was wondering about,” she
remarked, “those divorced women, which husband do they get to see up there in
heaven?” I told her not to worry too
much for her girl friends. They will
have to look for their attorney first when they get up there and he will
provide necessary legal counsel…
Of course, those of you who know the Scriptures know it does
not work that way up there. In Matthew 22,
the Sadducees, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, came to Him with a question
regarding marriage and the resurrection.
Jesus answered them with these words: “For in the resurrection people
will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in
heaven” (verse 30). Jesus teaches here
that marriage is a relationship to be enjoyed in this life, but it will not
carry forward into the next life. While
we do not lose our identity in heaven (Luke 16:23), we will not hold the same
relationships that we do on earth. Our
existence will be quite different from what we are used to here.
For centuries, the temple and its sacrifices were at the
heart of worship, but once Christ came and offered Himself as the ultimate
sacrifice, the temple system and its sacrifices were no longer needed (John
4:22-23). The earthly temple was only “a
copy of the true one” in heaven (Hebrews 9:23-24). In the same way, the marriage relationship is
a picture of our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32). Once we are present with Christ, the
illustration will no longer be needed.
We will have the reality, which is far better than any earthly
representation. This is why Jesus is
called the Bridegroom, the Church is called His Bride, and our celebration in heaven
is called the Wedding (John 3:29; Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:7-9).
This week, the Holy Week, give us another opportunity to recall
the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus has made on our behalf and again think about
our relationship with Him. I commend those
of you who have faithfully returned to God our LORD in spirit and truth through
Lent. As our shared journey of ashes,
sackcloth, fast, prayer, and penitence is now reaching its seasonal climax, we
also look ahead to the hope and joy of Easter when we will again hear the
angel: “His is risen!” (Mark16:6)
That family member appeared to make sure his little girl was
doing alright and our sister in Christ saw him walking and recognized him. “Afterward, Jesus appeared in a different
from to two of His followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but on
one believed them. Still later, He
appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together…” My beloved, the Lord is risen! If He walks by today, will you see Him and
In a sitdown with Grantland’s Bill Simmons last week,
President Obama showed off his vast knowledge of the NBA and its top players,
and when the conversation turned to Knicks phenom and fellow Havard grad Jeremy
Lin, he showed a fatherly sense of pride.
In fact, Obama said he was ahead of the curve on the Linsanity
phenomenon: “I knew about Jeremy before
you did, or before everybody else did…”
I am not sure about “everybody else.” However, I know this: Obama knew about Jeremy
Lin way before I did. Jeremy first
caught my attention just a couple of weeks ago when all of a sudden a friend of
mine posted on his Facebook a whole list of new words: Linsanity, Linpossible, Linternet, Linflamed,
Lincredible, Linfluenza, Linsomnia, and believe it or not, even
Linyourface! I thought to myself, Oh my
word, this Lin must be some kind of guru if he could be all of this.
Everything happens fast here in America. The next thing I learnt is all the increased
television ratings and merchandise sales while Linsanity’s biggest impact has
been on the court. The shock wave has
been far reaching and swept up places like China
and Taiwan. The two have been heard in both staking their
claims to Mr. Lin’s success story. Taiwanese
enthusiastically point out that Lin’s parents lived on their island before
moving to the US
where he was born. Meanwhile, China holds
that one of Lin’s grandmothers was born in a Chinese province…
Who is Lin? The conversation
is carrying on. The question is not
answered for many. In some circles it’s a
dialogue with connotations of all sorts.
I recall one between Taiwan’s
president, Ma Ying-jeou and congressional representative Eni Faleomavaega late
February. Ma said Taiwan and the United States share views on
democracy and peace in addition to agreeing that “we both appreciate Jeremy
Lin.” After a good laugh, Faleomavaega,
the ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia
and the Pacific, had a comeback: “I’m
sorry to tell you that Jeremy Lin is an American, a blue-blooded born
American.” Well, not really save-face
kind of diplomatic with Ma. However, by
the end of the day, no doubt, Linsanity is an American story. Despite the claim game there, Linspiration is
an American experience. The dream began
in California and it came true in New York.
One probably can see that this overnight sensation is
transcending geographical, racial, social, and political boundaries. I am sure that many millions of young people
across the globe are and will continue to be inspired by Lin. While people are trying to figure out who is
Lin, what Jeremy said about himself is particularly triggering to me: “I still recognize that I am a sinner and
that won’t change no matter how I play on the court.” In the Season of Lent when we are called to
repent, do you share such a self-confession?
That recognition is the first step in returning to God our LORD.
A recent survey by American Bible Society shows that 86% of
adults consider the Bible holy and sacred.
But are people engaging it in a transformational way? Here are some findings: 20% engaged, believe that Bible is the actual
Word of God, with no errors, and read the Bible at least 4 times a week, if not
daily; 45% friendly, believe the Bible is the Word of God and read it fewer
than 4 times a week; 25% neutral, indifferent to the Bible; and 10% antagonistic,
meaning we don’t like the Bible.
When people see statistics like this, often they have a
tendency to apply categories to themselves.
I wonder into which one you will fall when you hold this pastoral in
hand. As a pastor, I always enjoy
hearing people say “The Bible is God’s absolute standard for moral living and
conduct.” At the same time, I can hardly
get around the stubborn fact that 37% of all adults never have enough time to
read the Bible. What in the world is
going on? Taking the Word of God
seriously, one cannot help but wonder. As
a member of the Bible-believing family at Bethlehem,
what do think of all this?
I don’t have an answer.
A couple of weeks into our new Bible study this year, I have seen
both: people telling me all sorts of
things like pre-arrangements and schedule conflicts for not being able come even
though how much they love it, and also people who are eager to learn and are
faithfully showing up. What I do know is
this: the manifest presence of the LORD
is in our midst every time we gather for a study. The Word of God is alive and powerful (Hebrew
4:12). The Holy Spirit is real and present.
The writing on the wall does not belong to Prophet Daniel
alone. God sent his hand to write on the
wall again for one sister and her families in their earnest praying for their
child suffering a life-threatening situation.
The writing they saw was “The child shall live.” That child was healed and lived. Praise the LORD! Another member, knowing her son was going to
die after a long suffering, came to the decision of releasing him to the
LORD. Jesus came to her while she was
driving! She actually could see through
Jesus and kept on the right lane when the Lord assured her: “Robert will be
home and you all will be fine.” The
families were coping well and fine.
Thanks be to God! Still another
member, having lost three fourth of her total blood in an outburst of tubal
pregnancy, heard the voice of God while in a hospital bed at Huntington
Memorial: “I will give you another one.”
Seven years later, she had a beautiful girl! God is faithful!
The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it
penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart. In
our Bible study, we have seen it, heard it and experienced it. Still, God speaks to us today. Jesus still comes to us on the way. The Holy Spirit is continuing in us with
miracles and wonders. People are
touched. Lives are transformed. Why don’t you drop your nets like James and
John, come and find out? Let us share
your living, personal trust in Jesus the Lord.
Let us see the Holy Spirit that has sealed your life.
Happy New Year! The
last few days were an exciting time for the four of us in our family, yes, even
for baby Christina as she found herself among dozens of babies, toddlers, and
little kids. For one thing, Christina
had a switch in her diet, from routine rice porridge and noodles to more milk,
bread, and even one big meal of Mexican taco beans. Amazingly, she did well for such a time as
“For Such a Time as This” (Esther 4:14) is not only the away-from-home
situation Christina quickly adapted to; but also the theme Jenny, Calvin and I
pondered and prayed at Town & Country Resort, San Diego December 27-30,
2011. No, it’s not a getaway, neither a retreat,
nor a family vacation. It is the Chinese
Mission Convention, West Coast. Invited
by Ambassadors for Christ, we were there together with nearly 3,000 other participants,
seeking God and responding to God’s calling for His mission in the world.
“The tone was electric.
In this massive auditorium filled with thousands of people, the light
from three huge screens lights everyone’s face.
The screens scroll a large count-down clock like a maniac gasoline pump,
measuring the arrival of something only minutes away. Music intensifies with the power of Carmina
Burana. Lights beam across the room with
ever increasing speed, changing color.
When the clock reaches “0” and the opening of the 2011 CMC West Coast is
announced, the room erupts in applause like the roar of the Pacific coast.” I thought this kick-off description in the
Convention News vividly reflects the momentum of God’s mission in the
The question to ask is:
Do I have a part in this movement?
Or, where and how do I start? This
is a question for all of us who don’t want to be lukewarm, but take Jesus and
his Great Commission (Matthew 28) seriously.
In the midst of pondering, praying, worship and praise, and workshops of
many sorts, the highlight for us is seeing and hearing Pastor Francis Chan
again. He deeply inspired Jenny and me
several years ago when we first came to California
and worshipped at his church in Simi
Valley over Christmas.
During this convention, God again spoke to the Chinese Church through Francis a message cut to
the heart: Repent, confess our sin, and
humble ourselves before the LORD before we can say “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6). We have to deal with pride first, which is a
main character of Chinese pastors as a whole.
It is the root cause of all those inter-generational and inter-cultural
conflicts in the family and power struggles over leadership succession in the
ministry. “Woe is me! It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people
with filthy lips.”
Isaiah’s confession comes first before he was sent and
prophesied “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Humbling ourselves before God is the starting
point before we can be any tools worthy of God’s mission in the world. Even today, in all the rejoicing and excitement
as we begin the New Year, we’d better “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm
46:10). For such a time as this, I pray
that you are as convinced as I am.
“Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, who is the light and the life of all the ages.” After we enjoy a big Thanksgiving feast and change the paraments in the sanctuary to blue each year, the presiding minister in many Lutheran churches will often call their congregations to worship service with this invocation. And people respond with Amen.
Those of us who pay a little extra attention to liturgy have noticed that we begin our worship with a big mystery that theology is to proclaim: Trinity, something we often take it for granted as long time church-goers. Meanwhile, it’s also something that we wrestle with when trying to share the faith with seekers and often find hard to explain. I remember a time about two and a half years ago when we just began to explore the possibility of starting a new partnership with Upper Room Fellowship who now meet on our campus on Saturdays, a Chinese deacon of then leadership immediately expressed her suspicion: “They are different from us. The Seventh Day Adventist Church has a different doctrine compared to ELCA.” Conversations carried on a bit further and show that sometimes it takes a bishop to settle a doctrinal concern.
In his response, Bishop Nelson eventually stated: “A large number of congregations of our Southwest California Synod rent their facilities to non-Lutheran congregations. Most – if not all – of these renting congregations share a Trinitarian faith and commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that is common to Lutherans and all Christians.” I quote these conversations simply to point out a reality in our midst: We often lack some basic doctrinal understanding of our belief, a Trinitarian faith system.
Few, if any, theologians have stressed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity more strongly than Martin Luther did. Luther’s doctorate ring, now in the Brunswick Museum in Germany, shows a symbol of the Trinity: three circles linked together. These represent the supreme mystery. Those of us evangelicals interested in theology hold that belief or disbelief in the Trinity marks orthodoxy from unorthodoxy (Moody, pp198). Obviously, I am not the only one concerned in our community. Recently, a dear brother in Christ has greatly encouraged me in his response to the Bible Study survey by humbly sharing his sense of inadequacy in understanding Trinity and a fervent desire for some further studies. This may well be a sense and a need shared by many. What challenges us most is being honest with ourselves and admit truthfully “Yeah, this is what I lack and this is what I need.”
Leading to Christmas, Advent is a season inviting us to be honest with ourselves so that we can truly know how prepared we are for the coming of Christ. At this point, you are probably still confused about many things around Trinity and wonder why the heck this pastoral does not give an answer. No, it does not. It is an invitation for you to join this conversation and explore together this profound mystery and other doctrines of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.