Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Gratitude

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Dennis says it well. We remember and are grateful.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Korean Wedding In Hawaii

The Korean Presbyterian congregation that "nests" in my church celebrated a wedding yesterday. The congregation's founding pastor's youngest son and his bride flew in from New Jersey to be married in the presence of their family. I was invited and enjoyed sitting "out front" for a change.

The wedding was simple but included a few "twists" both Korean and Hawaiian.

Here is the ceremony itself.

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Immediately after the ceremony the bride and groom first bow to the bride's parents and then, as in this picture, the groom's parents.

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They then face the whole gathering of family and friends . . .

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. . . and bow to them as well. As the officiating pastor put it, "The deeper the bow the greater the sign of respect and gratitude."

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After the recessional the bride and groom returned to the front of the church and sang a nice duet for everyone.

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Then the groom's niece, who attends my congregation as well as the Korean church, danced two hulas in honor of the newly married couple.

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The groom's older brother then followed with another tradition (the Korean pastor I was sitting with said that it was a Korean "tradition") that could only be called publicly humbling the groom. Among other things the groom was required to do ten pushups in front of everyone (I had never before seen someone in a tuxedo do pushups in the front of a church before!). He then made the groom promise to his bride that he would provide "satisfaction" for her on their honeymoon night. This he did and his bride replied that she hoped that he would!

They then signed the marriage certificate and cut the cake with the usual American tradition of feeding each other a piece.

The wedding ceremony was Christian, the language, humor and etiquette were Korean, the dancing Hawaiian and the happiness was universal! The bride, the groom, their parents, siblings, extended families and friends were almost all immigrants to the United States. Those I know, one-by-one, are gaining American citizenship.

The United States is blessed to have them come on board! And, yes, the groom did kiss the bride after the "I do's!"

For those of you who like a little movement and sound here are two brief videos clips. The first shows the end of Grace's first hula. The second one shows the cutting of the cake and the "first feeding!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell -- R.I.P.

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Jerry Falwell died unexpectedly this morning while sitting at his desk in his church office. He was 73 years old.

Falwell was a pastor (of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, a church he founded). He was a founder, President and Chancellor of a University (Liberty University). He was the founder and leader of the "Moral Majority," one of the most successful political organizations in the history of the United States, registering over 15 million voters between 1979 and the early 1980s.

Falwell was a Christian fundamentalist and proud of it. I can't say that I agreed with his theology or that I even agreed with his politics. Only the Rev. Dr. Pat Robertson made more outrageous comments or expressed more controversial opinions than Falwell (his early segregationist positions, his "Clinton Chronicles video, his opposition to sanctions against South Africa's aparthied government, post 9/11 comments, his diatribe against the Teletubbies, etc.) Unlike Robertson, however, Falwell often apologized for his statements and, over time, changed his mind in several important matters.

Above all else Falwell was a Christian. He was a disciple of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To the best of his ability he served his Lord faithfully and well. He used his many talents wisely and well and left behind a legacy of accomplishments unstained by financial or moral scandal.

Falwell was a passionate man who inflamed passion in millions of Americans who saw in him a champion of their conservative social values.

No one ever accused Jerry Falwell of being wishy-washy or being a flip-flopper in his central beliefs.

He was intelligent enough to change with the times and, when he felt that the Moral Majority had served its purpose and had begun to be a stumbling block for his Christian ministries in Lynchburg, he let it go, leaving to others the torch that he had raised and carried for so many years.

Falwell worked hard and, in the end, died quietly.

He was a phenomenon and he was a personality filled with just the sort of "sound bites" that fed the hunger of the news media.

His life on this earth has now passed away. He is at home with the Lord and, as the Lord himself says, "His works will follow him."

He leaves behind a nation divided on whether his influence on America was a good thing or a very, very bad one. History and historians are, of course, fickle and biased. So are pundits and media commentators. Each of these will have their say in the days ahead. In the end it will Jesus who will render the final judgment on Jerry Falwell.

Falwell, like myself, trusted in the mercy of Almighty God and the forgiveness of sins through the atoning death and saving resurrection of Jesus Christ. I do not believe that his faith and hope have been disappointed.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Quote of the Day

Yesterday San Francisco Giant's rookie Fred Lewis went 5-6 including hitting for the cycle, only the 22nd Giant to ever do so. The Giants wound up whipping the Colorado Rockies 15-2. After the game Colorado manager Clint Hurdle was asked what he thought about his first meeting with Fred Lewis. Hurdle replied with this memorable comment:
We didn't pitch him as effectively as we'd like to. We've got a lot of areas now where we know not to throw the ball to after this game. We were able to pick up a lot of that.
Duh . . . I guess!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Christian Contrasts--American Youth Rally & Peshwar (Pakistan) Easter Celebration

The April 2007 issue of Christianity Today carried two articles back-to-back. I found irony in their juxtaposition.

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The first concerned a Passion New Year's concert/conference in Atlanta that drew over 23,000 college students for four days of "loud, demonstrative worship" complete with 12 giant projection screens. The Passion events have been held for the past 10 years and will now go international in their attempt to draw young adults into making prayerful commitments to follow Jesus Christ in his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.

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This gathering of middle/uppper middle-class American youth (representing 1,200 college/university campuses) packed into the Atlanta Hawk's Philips Arena with lightshows and Christian rock (like Chris Tomlin) and key speakers like John Piper, Beth Moore and Louie Giglio, stood in stark contrast to the small band of Pakistani Christians who celebrated Easter in Peshwar, Pakistan, surrounded and protected by armed Pakistani soldiers armed with automatic rifles.

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This incident was captured in word and picture by another young Christian named Joshua T. White who spent a year in Pakistan as a representative of a Christian organization called Institute for Global Engagement.

White was captured by the image of an Islamic nation allowing, even in one of its strongest Islamist strongholds, permitting Christians to walk through the streets in a pre-dawn Easter ritual.

I have attended large Christian gatherings for Promise Keepers, Women of Faith, Billy Graham Crusades, Greg Laurie Harvest Crusade and other gatherings of Christian adults and youth on large scales.

I have also gathered with Christians in Amman, Jordan, and in Soviet-era Russian Orthodox churches and seminaries in Russia and the Ukraine and in small barrio congregations in Mexico.

The faith may be the same but the experience of that faith in context is very different.

In Atlanta, standing up in an arena with 22,999 other Christians is anything but an exercise in vulnerability or public "cross-carrying." One can easily leave that arena and be indistinguishable from anyone else to be seen on the city's streets.

Not so for the Christians in Peshwar. Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants and Pentacostals all walked together as one Body through a city where they are not only labeled as a barely-tolerated religious minority but where they are known by sight by every Muslim to be less equal and subject to very different applications of the law when conflict arises between any of them and any Muslim.

Yet the same Lord is Lord of his saints in Pakistan and in Atlanta, Georgia.

In some ways the youth in Atlanta face a greater test of faith than their Pakistani counterparts. Like the rich young ruler of the Gospels, they have much in this world to lose. Along with the rest of the "wealthy West" (of which I am also a member) God will require much from them. And, insofar as they have been blessed with abundance in wealth and education and other worldly resources, they have much to offer the coming Kingdom of God.

Those Peshwari Christians, on the other hand, have little but faith and life . . . and life, too, is a fragile thing in their corner of the world in this particular time of history.

Joshua White writes that he learned a great many things while in Pakistan. I suspect that, if their hearts are truly possessed by God, those college students in Atlanta, should they follow Christ into foreign missionary service, will also learn as much or more than they will teach and recieve as much or more than they will give.

In the end it is faith and trust in Jesus and a full embrace of his spirit of love alone that will count for anything in our lives.

I suspect that when being a Christian requires you to be protected by armed guards, you quickly learn to take your faith very seriously.