The Word Became Flesh (Christmas Sermon)

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De la Tour, Christ in the Carpenter’s Workshop

“The way to Christian growth is to allow oneself to be puzzled and startled by new apparent complexity.  There is great simplicity at the heart of this picture, but it is costly.  The price it demands is sustained attention to the specific, and to us strange and perhaps even repellent, first-century ways of thinking that characterized Jesus.  Is it after all Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our own making?” – N.T. Wright
That’s a powerful question: Is it after all Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our making? Unfortunately, there are many idols that go by the name of “Jesus” – there is the Jesus of the Da Vinci Code; the Jesus of who is kept on a leash to dispense his approval for every act of tyrants; the Jesus of consumerism and prosperity preaching, whose one purpose is to bless you with wealth; the Jesus of sexual liberation whose one and only commandment is that you not judge. Then there is the Jesus of bad hymns: “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, and “the little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes” – the Jesus who never needed His diaper changed; who let Mary and Joseph sleep through the night from Day One; who never needed a shower.
But these are not the real Jesus, the one who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. To understand that Jesus – to understand the first Christmas – we need to do what Wright says: we need to pay “sustained attention to first-century ways of thinking that characterized Jesus.” So this morning, I want to think about the coming of Jesus in terms of the Scriptures and the story of Israel. My hope is that by doing this, we may both know Jesus better and know our own place in His story. Continue reading

Sora in the Classroom

I should probably let Sora blog about this, but I can’t resist doing it myself. The last three weeks, in addition to some birthroom shifts and outreach to Isla Verde, she has taught a class on breastfeeding for the student midwives at the clinic. It’s a pretty thorough class from what I can tell: I’ve been next to her in the evenings while she puts all sorts of information about chemistry, physiology, and medical research on a Keynote slideshow for each class — or rather, while she begins to do so, for I usually fall asleep by midnight while she continues to burn the candle at both ends until the wee hours of the morning, trying to get her slides perfect, making herself more jet-lagged than I was even after actually flying on jets across the Pacific and back.

Today I met the other “midhusbands” for coffee. We talked about the idea of Christian vocation. I mentioned that for me, a major reason to become a missionary was to be a good steward of the talents and gifts of my wife. It has been fun to watch her dive into this new teaching opportunity. And while I admit to teasing her as she discovers some of the pitfalls of the classroom that I have figured out over the last decade (students’ oral reports taking twice as long as you think they will; how hard to make the exam, etc.), she appears to be quite good at it. The exam was today, and now she has to deal with my bête noir: grading.

When we were in Ohio, Sora taught a single apprentice (midwives are sort of like Sith Lords that way). That’s about all you can do while running a homebirth practice in North America. But because we are here, she had 24 Christian student midwives learning from her.

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Visit back to Cincinnati; Consecration; Ordination

I’m pretty much recovered from the jet lag, so it’s time to blog about my trip back to the States this past week. I spent 80 hours in transit, and 120 hours in Cincinnati.

Many thanks to my hosts for the week, Tim and Mary G. of our home parish, Trinity REC in Mason. They very graciously kept me warm and fed for the week, and regaled me with conversation, wine, and the good company of old friends. They also hosted my friend and theirs, Mark Butler and his son William, who came up for the consecration on Saturday of our beloved rector, Peter Manto, as the newest bishop in the REC (suffragan in the Diocese of the Central States) – as well as for my own ordination on the next day.

Before the consecration, I had a pleasant meeting with Bishop Royal Grote and Canon Bill Jerdan, who represent the REC’s Board of Foreign Missions. We talked about the past year and plans for the future. I am very thankful to have these men in authority over us; they are truly looking out for our best interests and seeking to help us serve the Lord.

The consecration service was a beautiful ceremony with no less than 6 bishops, 1 archdeacon, 17 priests, 2 deacons (myself and David T., also of Trinity), and 2 deaconesses in attendance.

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I have spent the best years of my life as a sheep in the flock of this shepherd:

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Fr. Peter – it is only with effort that I drop the label “father” in favor of “bishop”, for he has been a father to me – has helped me with encouragement, forgiveness, wise counsel, and a steady and unwearied presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ from pulpit and table for the last decade.

That same day, Saturday, I paid a surprise visit to the Mars Hill Academy Madrigal Dinner. Mr. Butler and Mr. Giese’s son Andy smuggled me into the building of Covenant First Presbyterian, and hid me in a back room until I emerged in full costume as the Lord High Chamberlain, a role I have played in the past. The looks of astonishment on the faces of my former students were priceless.

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On Sunday, the ordination service was held for David Truax, myself, and William Smith, a presbyter transferring into the REC from the PCA. It was a delight to worship in Trinity’s renovated sanctuary, with stone tile on the floor of the chancel, and much better lighting. Bishop Morse handed me the Biblia Graeca with the charge to preach the Word:
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No doubt partly because of the consecration the previous day, there was a large number of REC clergy present:

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I was especially pleased by the presence of some of the REC clergy through whom God has most blessed our family’s history: Bp. Peter, Dcn. (then shortly, Fr.) Truax, Bp. Morse, Fr. Wayne McNamara, Fr. Chris Herman, Fr. Mike Fitzpatrick, and Fr. Franklin Sanders were all present. Some others who had been present at Bp. Peter’s consecration the previous day have also been a great encouragement to me: Fr. Paul Edgerton, Fr. Harry Mathis, and Fr. Charlie Camlin. It was a privilege to have three bishops present: Bp. David Hicks of REC-NEMA stayed an extra day and attended the ordination service as well.

I had a good trip both there and back again: despite a weather delay in Chicago, and a missed flight in Tokyo (Narita), I ended up in Manila in plenty of time to catch the flight to Davao City. I only regret that I could not stay longer to see more of our friends and supporters.

I was halfway expecting to be conquered by homesickness and not want to return to the Philippines, but the effect of seeing all our friends and home church and fellow REC clergy was exactly the opposite: the overwhelming majority of people I knew both on Saturday and on Sunday are actually supporters of our missionary work. So while they are our dearest friends, they are also a visible reminder of the great ministry that has been entrusted to me and Sora here in the Philippines. It is a great honor to represent them as we build relationships with our Filipino brothers and sisters.

Thank you for your prayers!

Below, you see the clerical collar I wore on the 45 hour trip back to Davao.

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