"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

31 August 2010

Top ten things I want you to remember (and why)

When I took Greek, my instructor gave us a list of the ten things she wanted us to remember. On the list were nine basic survival rules for dealing with Greek. The tenth thing to remember was "we had fun."

Maybe "we had fun" should be the number one thing, though, because if you remember having fun with what you learned, you're more likely to use the knowledge, be passionate, grow and learn more. Or at least try not to lose it.

Since I'm teaching "Gospel Proclamation for Deacons" again I thought I'd reprise that list, for preachers. So dedicated to this year's crop of deacons-to-be, here is the top ten list of things I want them to remember:

1. You can prepare all you want, pray and craft a homiletic gem; but if you don't speak clearly and project your voice to the whole room, nobody but you will benefit from your work. A beautiful sermon, muttered, is wasted.

2. You can speak eloquently and even receive many compliments and still have a lousy, pointless, or even heretical sermon. Prepare with fear and trembling and a heart rent before God.

3. Most jokes told during sermons are not nearly as funny as the preacher thinks they are. There's a reason professional comedians tend to get paid more than we do.

4. When in doubt, leave it out. If you're not sure about an illustration or you haven't chased the implications of a bright idea through to their end, please don't force your congregation to wonder what on earth you are talking about. Likewise, not everything you learned about a passage needs to be in the sermon.

5. Don’t shy away from difficult texts; sometimes, that’s where the most profound discoveries are to be found.

6. Take passages in context. Assume that the original writer did not have attention deficit problems and really meant the text to come out with that flow of thought.

7. The Holy Spirit can inspire you in the pulpit on a Sunday morning. The Holy Spirit can also inspire you in your study during the week.

8. Talk to the congregation, when appropriate even to individuals within the congregation. It helps them pay attention, and put you at ease.

9. Sermons age rather more like fish than like wine. No matter how good they were the first time, leftover sermons almost always stink. Fresh preparation grows you and helps you own the Scriptures afresh each time, no matter how busy your week was.

10. And yes, remember that we had fun. Love preaching and the people will more likely love listening.

23 August 2010

More on North Korea

N.Korea Rights Conference Focuses on Plight of Women

The 10th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees in Toronto, Canada, last weekend condemned gross infringement of human rights in North Korea and sought ways to tackle the problems through international cooperation.
◆ North Korean Refugees in China
Saturday's conference focused on the violation of the rights of North Korean women who escaped to China. Lee Won-woong, professor of social welfare studies at Kwandong University, said, "Women make up 70 percent of North Korean defectors, and most of them are victims of human trafficking and bonded labor. Many of them are trafficked and sold to farmers in the inland China or become sex slaves in cities."
One North Korean woman defector who was present in the conference said, "When we cross the Duman (or Tumen) River, there are Chinese traffickers waiting for us. Because we have nobody to rely on in China, and we get repatriated if caught in China, and most North Korean women are raped and sold without being able to resist." She said the "price" of a North Korean women is 2,000 yuan (W350,000) if she is older, and 8,000 (W1.4 million) if she is in her 20s.
Kim Mi-ran, a 50-year-old woman who defected to South Korea in 2008, said, "Many of these women are sold to disabled Chinese men in the countryside. They're shackled, and their husbands even follow them into the toilet. Young and pretty women are sold to brothels and karaoke parlors and are forced into prostitution."
◆ Repatriation and Imprisonment
Women defectors say that as soon as they are caught and sent back to the national security and intelligence office near the border, military doctors with latex gloves put their hands in the vagina and anus -- regardless whether the woman is pregnant or virgin -- to see if there is any money hidden there. They also make the women sit and stand 100 times to see if something hidden in their body cavities drops out.
“North Korean agents say that pregnant women who were caught in China have the babies of "dirty dogs (referring to Chinese), and take them out of the office for a forced abortion," Kim Mi-ran said. "Many women die in prison because they don't get adequate treatment after losing a lot of blood from the abortion and malnutrition."
◆ Call on China
Roberta Cohen of the conservative Brookings Institution in the U.S., said although China is a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, it does not have the refugee adjudication process, and bans the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in China from contacting North Korean refugees. She said this is a violation of international law.
Participants in the conference agreed to assist global efforts to raise awareness of the human rights situation in North Korea. The conference was organized by, the Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights in South Korea and a Canada-based youth organization on North Korean human rights named HanVoice. It was sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Chosun Ilbo.
HanVoice was formed in Toronto chiefly by second-generation Korean-Canadian youngsters in 2007. It has about 200 members, 20 percent of whom are of non-Korean descent.

Reposted from: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/08/23/2010082301076.html

Considering how much money Americans pour into the Chinese economy, with neither thought nor need, we need to take note of the human rights abuses we’re supporting.  The Chinese people are not responsible for this atrocity, but the Chinese government is the primary support for the oppressive and abusive regime in North Korea.  Refugees, who leave their homes do not do so lightly.  Most of them leave behind loved ones, sometimes never seeing them again.  They leave because they cannot survive in North Korea, because they have no other options.   They love their homeland, but North Korea considers them traitors and many are executed or placed in forced labor camps if caught and returned from China.  If they have had contact with the Church in China, their fate is worse and importing Christianity to Korea is dangerous and illegal.

22 August 2010

Weighty words.

A friend gave me a new pen today. I've been a bit of a pen snob since high school, and have a favorite fountain pen (nothing fancy as fountain pens go, some of them cost hundreds of dollars, but this one has a nice feel to the nib, is attractive, and flows easily-- besides, I'm too cheap for a hundred dollar pen) that I use for more formal documents. If nothing else it appeases my vanity by making my signature look bold and neat.

Today's new pen (thanks Paul) has a good texture and weight to it; you won't find that in a disposable. (Its also seriously cool and smells like coffee! Awesome for a gal who never really outgrew scented markers!) I like a pen with a good weight; it makes a pen feel real and permanent.

Which got me to wondering, in our world, we write so many light and disposable words, that real and permanent is almost strange. We send emails (which get deleted upon receipt most of the time), we make memos and grocery lists and all manner of chicken scratchings. We produce a LOT of words, but we no longer write letters, journals, and much of substance which we would expect the the next generation to read. How many of us would think of our great-great grandchildren as we dash off our words?

We write on the backs of envelopes with disposable pens, desperate disposable words destined for the waste basket once their immediate purpose is fulfilled. Our words lack permanence and heft. Letters give way to email which has since faded into Facebook "status updates". Journals yield to blogging, which is now fading into Twitter. Microblogging they call it. The literary equivalent of a grunt.

But some words need to have weight, permanance and artistry. Sermons should be built to last; preached once but worthy of repeat, custom designed yet universally reliable. Journals likewise should be crafted for the moment but with an eye to the future. The art of writing poetry, books, and letters worth saving is a fading craft. But perhaps, if we begin to think of our words as indespensible, rather than disposable, we will begin to return to the creation of words worth keeping.

19 August 2010

With friends like these…

Tonight I met someone new, with whom I should have a lot in common.  We both homeschool our kids, we both are Christians, and we both had our kids enrolled in the Bible Bee at the same local church.  There I was, glad to see some familiar faces to confirm that I was indeed in the right place, herding my kids out of the car, picking up odds and ends, and putting on my nice-girl face for any new friends I might meet during the evening, when my first new face greeted me. 

He seemed friendly enough, shook hands, asked my name twice in that sort of way that says “I care enough to want to remember.”  He asked me which kids were mine (they’d already dashed off to join the others goofing about on the parish lawn) and pointed his out to me.  Friendly enough.  But one thing led to another and within a ten minute introductory conversation I had been party to his rather judgmental and opinionated form of conservatism, heard the public schools bashed, been told that his “good” neighborhood consisted of only a small number of (presumably bad) single parent households (well good for you, dude), and all that was before he started ripping into the Roman Catholic Church.

Now as a good Anglican, I am somewhat of an omnivore.  There aren’t many of us Anglicans roaming loose at Bible Bees, so we don’t often get noticed when the brick bat comes around, you rarely hear Anglican bashing. But because we’re catholic, orthodox, evangelical, protestant and just about every other label in Christendom, when the brick bat heads for Rome, the catholic in me gets offended.  (Likewise when the bat is aimed at Protestants, the protestant gets offended… touch not the East, unless you really want me hot under the collar!)  Now I am all for honest criticism, after all, if I didn’t see the faults in any of the above branches of the family tree, I would join that branch instead of the tangled knot that is Anglicanism.  (If you’ve never seen branches get tangled in a knot, come over before I prune my blackberry brambles and I’ll show you… its dense in more than one sense of the word.) 

If you know me in real life, you know that I’m really not easily offended. My own opinions are so far off the beaten path sometimes, that if I only sought like-minded people, I’d spend most of my time in my room alone with only this blog to give me love and attention.  But this guy, within ten minutes of initial meeting really did offend me.  I was a little put off that he would throw all his opinions at me without the normal social getting-to-know-you rituals, but your bad social skills are not my problem; there is grace sufficient to cover such.  But what really got to me was that he thought it was okay to dismiss the tradition of the church because his brand of fundamentalism was a me-and-my-bible-alone type which prefers Scripture in a vacuum (your choice, fella, all things “necessary to salvation” are in there, but you’re missing all the fun) in such an arrogant manner.

This person should, by reasonable reckoning, be on the same team with me, but within ten minutes I found myself under friendly fire.  What’s up with that?  It is this kind of behavior that results in statistics that say things like ‘most Americans would rather have a known criminal live next door to them than an evangelical Christian.’ (I don’t know if that statistic is true or not; I just heard it somewhere years ago.  Still its interesting.)  How can we show the love and compassion Jesus commands to the outside world if we can’t even show basic courtesy to one another.  I sure didn’t get the feeling that this person loved me as a sister in Christ, enough to die for me (for Jesus did say “love one another as I have loved you”).  If all men will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another, what do “all men” see when we start shooting among ourselves?

14 August 2010

Bad advice of the day.

To clean pianos or computer keyboards To clean pianos or computer keyboards, wipe them with a soft cloth dampened with toothpaste.

Man! I love Chosun Ilbo!

10 August 2010


South Korean Police Raid Google's Seoul Office
Published August 10, 2010

South Korean police said they raided Google Inc's Seoul office on Tuesday on suspicion that the Internet search leader had illegally collected data on users.

Google has been preparing since late last year to launch its "Street View" service in South Korea and the data collection was related to the launch, police said.

The probe in one of Asia's most wired countries came as a fresh setback to Google, which already faces investigation over "Street View" by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a variety of probes overseas and class action lawsuits.

Google was not immediately available for comment.

"(The police) have been investigating Google Korea LLC on suspicion of unauthorized collection and storage of data on unspecified Internet users from Wi-Fi networks," the Korean National Police Agency said in a statement.

Google has said previously the data was accidentally collected by its cars and has grounded its "Street View" cars globally.

h/t: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/08/10/south-korean-police-raid-googles-seoul-office/?test=latestnews

I honestly can't stand Google's repeated invasions of privacy. My backyard is posted on the internet and there's nothing I can do about it. I have to seek out and actively remove my personal contact information from their directories. They have driven by my church, the places I visit and shop, and I expect some day they'll drive by MY house like they probably have yours. Like most everyone else, I do not want Google peering in my windows. Like most everyone else, I have neither been asked permission nor been given tools to prevent it.

So 감사함니다 South Korea! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Now if only there had been video taken, against Google's will, and posted on the internet for all of us to see..... ah, poetic justice is almost better than real justice.

01 August 2010

Finishing a thought...

Faithful cross above all other,
one and only noble tree,
none in foliage none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peer may be.

These ancient words came to mind this week as I was percolating my sermon for today. As I read the lesson in Ecclesiasties about vanity and the trinkets we gather, my thoughts turned to slavery and what life looks like without Christ. The preacher is clear that without the Word the life is lost from before conception. And Paul, in Colossians 3 sets the comparison image in even better focus, put off the evil ways and put on the fruits of the Gospel. And as my mind wandered deeper, into meditation and out of sermon, I pondered the fruits of the two different trees in the Garden. Knowledge of Good and Evil, that ancient tree, brings forth the blighted fruit Paul warns against, immorality, deceipt, evil desire, greed. That ancient tree brings forth the wrath of God and stands between us and the tree of life. Genesis 3 makes it clear, man cannot eat from both trees, either he must grow accustomed to the sticky sweet of rotted fruit, or he may eat freely of the tree of life. Never both; for to allow man to live in blighted rottenness forever, consuming both evil and immortality is cruelty.

So in the garden, God removed the tree of life.

The tree of life is promised to us again in the new heaven and earth. In the final two chapters of the Bible, as in the first two, the tree stands prominently in the midst of the Garden, man eating freely of it.

But what about today? I pondered Paul's words, put to death that which is earthly in you... put it to death. Why such severe language? It is because death is the prerequisite for resurrection. Because you are so far from your old slave masters as to be dead to sin, dead to death. So put to death the old master's blighted fruit. Put to death the fruit of the old tree.

But if the tree of life, the new tree to which we are promised access is only in the renewed Kingdom, then all we have is pie-in-the sky religion, and practical everyday spiritual starvation.

But it is the nature of God to take the symbols of this broken world and turn them upside down; thus it is that an instrument of death, of curse, -- cursed, says the Law, is him who hangs on the tree-- to become the tree of life and blessing. The dead wood of the cross becomes the tree of life, the son of God becomes accursed that we might be blessed, death gives way to resurrection and immortality.

It makes sense, then, doesn't it, that Jesus says in John's Gospel that whoever does not eat his flesh will have no part in him, for the fruit which hangs on the tree of life is the Lord himself. He who does not not eat of the tree of life, will surely die. There is no other option.

All of this leads, no doubt, to some very interesting Eucharistic theology, does it not?