EAM CROSS

EAM CROSS
Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Monday, November 17, 2014

SHARE THE TREASURE, USE THE TALENTS SHARE THE TREASURE, USE THE TALENTS


SHARE TREASURE, USE TALENTS   
 (Sermon of the Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, missioner for Asiamerica Ministries of The Episcopal Church during  the Revival Event of the Faith Community held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stockton, California, November 16, 2014.)




The Episcopal Church of St. John, the Evangelist. Stockton, California, USA. November 16, 2014.

This is an historic church, an historic city, and today is an historic moment.

We gather here today in the name of Christ to witness the work of a creating and re-creating God. The Church as the Body of Christ is God’s creation and God is pleased to recreate the Church today. In this beautiful city of Stockton, God will start this work with you and me. Together, we shall be God’s instrument in starting the revival, renewal and re-creation of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Founded in 1850, just a year after the founding of Stockton itself, St. John’s has been part of the evolution of this city. Just like any historic church, it has its ups and downs in religious experience brought about by demographic, theological and ecclesiological changes. But despite the myriad changes and chances in the world and the wider Church, St. John’s always managed to bounce back and regain its place in the life and culture of Stockton. 

Perhaps this resilience is due to the power of its testimony.  Its address, “316 El Dorado Street” recalls the biblical text of John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever lives and believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The Spanish “El Dorado” means “The Golden One,” which not only recalls the city’s role in California’s history of the Gold Rush but also implies the Golden Rule by which all Christians subscribe, “Do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you” or to put it in the words of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We also gather here today to honor the Rev. Fr. Justo Andres and to celebrate his 85th birthday. Fr. Andres is one of the pioneer Filipino priests who came to the United States in the early 1960’s to minister to the spiritual needs of Filipino immigrants.  It was in 1955 when the Most Rev. Isabelo Delos Reyes, Jr., Obispo Maximo of the Philippine Independent Church and the Rt. Rev. Harry Kennedy of the Episcopal Church of the USA met at the General Convention in Hawaii. Having just savored the beauty of the Concordat of Full Communion between the two churches, they dreamt of Filipino priests serving in the USA under the auspices of the Episcopal Church.

The first three priests who came to Hawaii were Fr. Timoteo Quintero, Fr. Jacinto Tabili and Fr. Justo Andres. Quintero arrived in 1959 and founded St. Paul’s Church in Honolulu, which has now become the largest congregation in the Diocese of Hawaii. Fr. Jacinto Tabili arrived in 1960 and was assigned in Hilo but later returned to become a Bishop in the Philippines. Fr. Justo Andres came in 1965 and served in Maui and Molokai and moved here in Stockton in 1983, where he founded Holy Cross Filipino Mission as an ethnic congregation here at St. John’s. Fr. Justo is the only surviving member of the Trio.

Disagreement over women’s ordination and the inclusive theology of the Episcopal Church resulted in an irreconcilable rift between the former bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin and the national church. All of a sudden the congregations of St. John’s and other parishes in the Diocese were torn apart. Many members joined the schismatic groups but Fr. Justo Andres and the Holy Cross Mission remained loyal to the Episcopal Church. Instead of being forced into schism, they decided to disband. It is our hope that with the legal recovery of St. John’s properties, they will all return and help renew and revive this church.

So for being a faithful priest, for being the only surviving member of the Filipino missionary trio, for being a respected community leader of Stockton----and also because tomorrow is his 85th birthday---we honor Apo Lakay, the Rev. Fr. Justo Andres!

By the way, Quintero, Tabili and Andres are all Ilocanos. Ilocanos are known in Philippines for their industry (sipag), frugality (kuripot) and their entrepreneurial spirit.  It was no wonder that they were the first of the Filipino priests who were sent to the United States.

I too am a missionary and an entrepreneur and I credit it to my Ilocano roots. My grandfather originally came from Ilocos Sur in Northern Philippines and ventured as a young man in the Visayas in Western Philippines, where he married my grandma and we became Ilonggos. He was not able to return to his home province; he died in Capiz, Panay Island. And so in his memory, I tried to research about the character of Ilocanos and I learned about their fierce nationalism, their love of family and community and their entrepreneurial spirit. 

Even before Apple invented the iphone, it seems that one Ilocano already conceived of it, forty two years before the announcement of iphone by Steve Jobs in 2007. This Ilocano visionary happened to be a cook, hired by President Marcos in Malacanang Palace in 1965. This Ilocano cook was specially recruited from Ilocos Norte (a kababayan of Fr. Andres, who is from Bacarra) and as soon as he came to Malacanang (equivalent of the White House), he was so excited to see a telephone, which at that time, was a rotary phone. So he called up his compadre in Manila and said, “Compadre, ania te aldaw, umay ka ditoy, ada te kastoy, ada pa te kasta,” (meaning, “Friend, when that sun goes down, come over here, there’s food and there’s wine”) but all the way gesturing as if he was on Zoom or on Skype---apps that were never heard before.

The Ilocanos are the first wave of Filipino immigrants who came to the U.S. way back in the early 1900s when the Philippines was still under American rule. They worked the pineapple plantation in Hawaii, the farmlands in California and the canneries of Alaska. They suffered the hard labor and were subjected to racial discrimination. Being young Ilocano males, they were not allowed to bring wives or girlfriends. By virtue of the then “anti-miscegenation laws” they were prevented from marrying Caucasian women who loved their romantic styles of courtship. So many of them lived and died as bachelors. In the 1930’s, there were signs in California restaurants which said, “No dogs, no Chinese and no Filipinos allowed.”

But in all their sacrifices and perseverance, God was kind to them and granted them long and productive lives. With the Great Immigration Reform in 1965, many of them were able to legally go home as balikbayans.  Some of them, like 80 or 90 years old, went back to Ilocos, married young Filipinas and brought them to the United States and bore offspring, many of them are here in Stockton. The Filipino Manongs, led by Larry Itliong, Andy Amutan and Philip Vera Cruz organized the farm workers unions here in Stockton and Delano which antedated the United Farm Workers led by the great Chicano leader, Cesar Chavez.

A story is told of an old Manong who was interviewed for U.S. citizenship. He was asked only two questions. First, “who is the president of the United States?” and he said in Ilocano, “Narigat!”which means in English, “It’s hard.” Well, at that time the president was Ronald Reagan and “Narigat” sounds like it, so the interviewer said, “That’s correct but next time, pronounce it better.” Then he was asked, “And who is the governor of California?” and he said, “Diak’amo” (which means “I don’t know”).Well, at that time the governor was Deukmejian and Diak’amo sounds like it so the interviewer said, “That’s correct but next time, pronounce it better.” He was granted citizenship, thanks to the Ilocano language!

One of the things I learned as a missionary is before I say something, I must first “smell the city.” So I spent time walking around Stockton this week, studied its history, talked with its people, observed its culture, discovered its needs, learned its assets and discerned its potentials. I read from recent news that Stockton, the city of 300,000 people, has declared bankruptcy and is one of the populous cities with problems of increasing crime, poverty and hopelessness. Forbes Magazine labeled Stockton as “one of America’s most miserable cities.”

Then I discovered the role of St. John’s in Stockton’s beginnings, in its early history as a prosperous and significant city. So this is the challenge to us, to rediscover the treasure that is at St. John and to invest our talents to pray for the revival of Stockton’s destiny. The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I shall hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
This then is the role of St. John’s. Just as its history is tied with Stockton’s history; so is the revival of Stockton be tied to the revival of St. John’s---and the destiny of Stockton be tied to the destiny of St. John’s. With the spiritual revival of St. John, will follow Stockton’s revival in peace, justice and prosperity.

The gospel this Sunday is about the parable of talents (Matthew 25:14-30.) A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, an ordinary story with extraordinary meaning. The Parable of the Talents reminds us that God gives us talents and overlooks the differences by which we receive these talents. But what God cannot overlook or tolerate is our failure of refusal to use the talents God has given us. Talents here are understood to be money, treasure or assets (physical, mental, spiritual).
In other words, it is all about faith, it is all about trust, it is all about taking risks. It is about faithfulness, more than success. The mission or God is an adventure and we are called to venture in faith and even to take risks for God. The commendation on those who invested their talents is not necessarily because they became successful but because they were faithful in using their talents. And the judgment against the one who did nothing, was because he had no faith, he had no trust. He was afraid take risks for his Master and so he buried his talents in the sand.

The  Episcopal Church is sometimes called the “best kept secret treasure in the United States.”  Well, we shall not keep it secret anymore. Let us take risks to shout it on the mountain tops, on the rooftops, in the cyberspace.  We have many talents endowed by our Creating and Re-Creating God. Our inclusive theology and welcoming spirit would enable us to receive and accommodate peoples from other races, cultures and ethnicities with love. Our talents at entrepreneurship and our courage to try new ways and to risk in mission, will enable us to gain God’s grace.  Let us use these talents for the revival and growth of the church and the revival of Stockton, for the glory of God and the blessings of justice, peace and prosperity of God’s people. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2014

JESUS IS GOD OF FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE JESUS ES DIOS DE FE, ESPERANZA Y AMOR


JESUS IS GOD OF FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE  (JESUS ES DIOS DE  FE, ESPERANZA Y AMOR )                                                                                       

 (First Sermon of the Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara at the first Mass in Spanish at St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373 on November 2, 2014)

My friends in the Latino Community of Elmhurst and Queens, New York. Today we begin the first Spanish language Mass. Thank you and welcome to St. James Church.
Mis amigos de la comunidad  Latina de Elmhurst y Queens, Nueva York. Hoy Comenzamos la primera misa en el lenguaje español. Gracias y  bienvenidos a la iglesia  San Santiago.

I am a Filipino and my Spanish is poquito but I really want to worship with you in the language of your heart. So I strive to study how to pronounce the words in this liturgy. I hope you forgive me feeble attempt. also have a good friend who is so kind to translate this message from English to Spanish.
Yo Soy  filipino y mi español es poquito pero yo deseo realmente celebrar el culto con ustedes en el lenguaje de su corazón. Entonces me he esforzado en estudiar cómo pronunciar las palabras en esta liturgia. Espero que perdonen mi frágil esfuerzo. También tengo una buena amiga que ha tenido la bondad de traducir este mensaje de inglés al español.

When we are intimate with a person we often use the language of our heart. When we feel pain, we cry in the language of our heart. When you’re in pain, I’m sure you do not say, “Ouch” like the English do, but you say “ucha!” or “ay yay yay.” In Philippines, we say “Aray” in Tagalog  and in Ilocano dialect, we cry to God and say, “Ay Apo Dios!” One Filipino in the hospital here in New York cried out, “Ay Apo Dios” and the English-speaking nurses gave him Apple Juice!
Cuando somos íntimos con una persona a menudo utilizamos el lenguaje de nuestro corazón. Cuando sentimos dolor, gritamos en el lenguaje de nuestro corazón. Cuando usted siente dolor, estoy seguro que usted no dice, “Ouch” como dicen en inglés,  sino que usted dice “ushh!” o “ay yay yay.” En las Filipinas, decimos “Aray” en Tagalogo y en el dialecto de Ilocano, lloramos a Dios diciendo, “Ay Apo Dios!” ¡Un filipino en un hospital aquí en Nueva York gritó, “Ay Apo Dios” y las enfermeras de habla inglesa le dieron un jugo de manzana!

When we feel happy, we also say it in the language of our heart. My favorite Spanish motto is “Barriga llena, corazon contento.” And when we are in love, we express it also in the language of our heart.
Cuando nos sentimos alegres, también lo decimos en el lenguaje de nuestro corazón. Mi lema preferido en español es “Barriga llena, corazón contento.” Y cuando estamos enamorados, lo expresamos también en el lenguaje de nuestro corazón.

I believe God wants us to worship Him in the language of our heart because God wants to have an intimate relationship with us. This is the reason why He came down from heaven and dwelt among us.  He wants to know us more deeply, to hear us more clearly, and to love us more dearly. He has given each of us a language by which to call Him. And to us, Christians, we call Him Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Jesucristo, El Senor y El Salvador.
Yo creo que Dios quiere que lo adoremos en el lenguaje de nuestro corazón porque Dios desea tener una relación íntima con nosotros. Ésta es la razón por la cual  él bajo del cielo y vivió entre nosotros.  Él quiere conocernos más profundamente, escucharnos más claramente, y amarnos  más cariñosamente. Él ha dado a cada uno de nosotros un lenguaje por el cual llamarlo. Y para nosotros, los cristianos, lo llamamos Jesús Cristo, nuestro señor y salvador, Jesucristo, El Señor y El Salvador.

There are three important designations of Jesus to me: Jesus is God of faith; Jesus is God of Hope; and Jesus is God of Love.
Para mí, hay tres designaciones importantes de Jesús: Jesús es Dios de fe; Jesús es Dios de Esperanza; y Jesús es Dios de Amor. 

First, faith is the assurance that God guides me to achieve my destiny. In the Old Testament of the Bible God said, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a good future”(Jeremiah 29:11). In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus said, “I come to give you life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
En primer lugar, la Fe es la seguridad que Dios me guía a lograr mi destino. En el antiguo testamento de la biblia Dios dijo, “Porque yo se los planes que tengo para ustedes, planes para su bienestar y no para su mal” (Jeremías 29:11). En el nuevo testamento de la biblia, Jesús dijo, “Yo he venido para que tengan vida, y para que la tengan en abundancia” (Juan 10:10).

So even when things are hard and life seems uncertain, I cling to my faith in God’s promises. They keep me strong in moments when I feel tired and lonely or weak or sick. As one Christian song says, “ I do not know about tomorrow, but I know who holds tomorrow.” The One who holds tomorrow is Jesus Christ, our Lord and He is the “same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). As He saved me in the past, He save me today, and He will save me tomorrow. He guides, provides and helps us fulfill our destiny.
Entonces, aun cuando las cosas están difíciles  y la vida parece incierta, yo me aferro a mi fe en las promesas de Dios. Ellas me mantienen fuerte en los momentos cuando me siento cansado y solo o débil y enfermo. Como dice una canción Cristiana, “no conozco  el mañana, pero conozco quién sostiene el mañana.” El qué sostiene el mañana es Jesucristo, nuestro señor y él es el mismo “ayer, hoy y siempre” (hebreos 13:8). El me salvó en el pasado, él me salva hoy, y él me salvará mañana. Él nos guía, provee y ayuda a cumplir nuestro destino.

Second, Hope is the virtue that keeps us going when the going gets tough. When you lost money, you lost nothing; when you lost health, you lost something; but when you lost hope, you lost everything. So let us never lose hope.  As long as there is life, there is hope. When you see the dark clouds in the sky, always believe there is a silver lining. When you see a storm coming, always believe there is a rainbow afterwards.
En segundo lugar, la Esperanza es la virtud que nos hace seguir adelante aun cuando hacerlo se torna más difícil. Cuando usted perdió dinero, usted no perdió nada; cuando usted perdió la salud, usted perdió algo; pero cuando usted perdió la esperanza, usted perdió todo. Entonces nunca perdamos la esperanza.  Mientras haya vida, hay esperanza. Cuando usted ve las nubes oscuras en el cielo, crea siempre que debajo hay una línea de plata. Cuando usted vea una tormenta por venir, crea siempre que después  habrá un arcoíris.

I remember many years ago when I was a young priest, we had a Clergy Retreat in Sabah, Malaysia. During the free time, some of us decided to climb Mount Kinabalo, the highest mountain in that area. There were twelve of us who started at the foot of the mountain. Halfway into the peak, half of the group gave up and went down. As we got close to the peak of the mountain, there was a fog. We got scared because we were thinking that if we reach the peak, we might not have the strength to return. So four of us, decided to call it quits and came downhill. Only two continued to push onward.
Recuerdo hace muchos años cuando yo era un joven sacerdote, tuvimos un retiro del clero en Sabah, Malasia. Durante el tiempo libre, algunos de nosotros decidimos subir el monte de Kinabalo, que es la montaña más alta de esa área. Había doce de nosotros que empezamos al pie de la montaña. A medio camino de la cima, la mitad del grupo se dio por vencidos y regresaron abajo. Según íbamos acercándonos  al pico de la montaña, había una neblina. Nosotros nos asustamos porque pensábamos que si alcanzábamos el pico, tal vez no tendríamos la fuerza para regresar. Entonces cuatro de nosotros, decidimos  parar y nos regresamos abajo. Solamente dos continuaron siguiendo hacia adelante.

When we came down from the mountain, we were so tired and frustrated. But when we arrived at the Camp, the two who pushed onward were already there. They had already taken a bath, feeling fresh and excited. They were telling how beautiful to be on top of the world. We were curious to find out how fast they got back and when we asked them, this is their answer: “When we saw the fog, that was so very close to the top. And when we reached the top, there was a cable car being used by the miners! And we rode back down on it.”
Cuando bajamos de la montaña estábamos tan cansados y frustrados. Pero cuando llegamos el campamento, los dos que habían seguido hacia adelante ya estaban allí. Ya se habían bañado, sintiéndose refrescados y animados. Estaban  contando cuan hermoso era estar en la cima del mundo. Nosotros estábamos curiosos por descubrir como llegaron de vuelta tan ligero y cuando les preguntamos, esta fue su respuesta: “Cuando vimos la neblina, que estaba tan cerca de la cima. ¡Y cuando alcanzamos la cumbre, había un carro de cable que estaban usando unos mineros! Y  nos montamos en el de regreso abajo.”

So when you have a dream or vision to reach the top, don’t give up. There will be a cable car on top of the mountain! What I mean, always hope in God. As St. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”(Philippians 4:13).Because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow!
Entonces cuando usted tenga un sueño o una visión para alcanzar la cima, no se dé por vencido. ¡Habrá un carro de cable en la cima de la montaña! lo que quiero decir es, que siempre tenga esperanza en Dios. Como San Pablo dijo, “A todo puedo hacerle frente, pues Cristo es quien me sostiene” (filipenses 4:13). Porque Jesús vive, podemos hacerle frente al mañana!

Third and finally, Jesus is God of Love.  The Bible again says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever lives and believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). All of us are mortal and we will die when our time has come. But death is not the final destiny. Death is not the end of life. Because Jesus has conquered death on the cross, He has given us access to everlasting life. By his resurrection, we are assured that our ancestors and beloved ones who died ahead of us, are waiting in heaven to also welcome us when our own time comes.
En Tercer lugar y finalmente, Jesús es Dios de amor.  De nuevo, la biblia dice, “Pues Dios amó tanto al mundo, que dio a su hijo único, para que todo aquel que cree en él no muera, sino que tenga vida eterna.” (Juan 3:16). Todos nosotros somos mortales y moriremos cuando haya llegado nuestra hora. Pero la muerte no es el destino final. La muerte no es el final de la vida. Porque Jesús ha conquistado la muerte en la cruz, él nos ha dado acceso a la vida eterna. , Por su resurrección, nos asegura que nuestros antepasados y seres queridos que murieron antes de nosotros, están esperandonos en el cielo para también darnos la bienvenida cuando llegue nuestro propio tiempo.

This gives us confidence for the future. This gives us courage to live. One of the things that Jesus told his apostles was “Do not be afraid.” Let us not fear because God loves us so much. He did not bring jus this far only to leave us or forsake us. God through Jesus redeemed us from the power of sin and death or the evil one. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Let us pray:
 Esto nos da confianza en el futuro. Esto nos da valor para vivir. Una de las cosas que  Jesús dijo a sus apóstoles es “no están miedo.” Entonces no temamos porque Dios nos ama tanto. Él no nos a traído están lejos únicamente para dejarnos solos  o para abandonarnos. Dios mediante  Jesús nos redimió del poder del pecado y de la muerte o del maligno. Nada puede separarnos del amor de Dios en Cristo Jesús. Oremos:

O Jesus, you are the God of faith, hope and love. Help us to increase our faith that you will guide and provide; help us to cling to hope when things do not work out as we expected; and help us to remember that you loved us so much and you will bring us to abundant life on earth and on the age to come, life everlasting.. Amen
O Jesús, tú  eres el Dios de la fe, la esperanza y el amor. Ayúdanos a aumentar nuestra fe que tú guías y provees; ayúdanos a aferrarnos a la esperanza cuando las cosas no  resultan como lo esperamos; y ayúdanos a recordar que tú nos amas tanto y tú nos traerás a la vida abundante en la tierra y en el futuro venidero, la vida eterna. Amén 


Note: Thanks to Rev. Gladys Diaz in the Diocese of New York for translating. - Fred

Monday, October 27, 2014

CHURCH YEARNS FOR MORE DIVERSITY


CHURCH YEARNS FOR MORE DIVERSITY
(Brief message of the Rev. Canon Dr. Fred Vergara to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin 4/25/14)

(Because the microphone was acting up, I told this oft-repeated joke: One Anglican Archbishop was testing the microphone in the cathedral. He tapped the mic three times and murmured, "There’s something wrong with this microphone." And the congregation replied, ‘And also with you.’”

I bring you greetings from the Presiding Bishop and from my colleagues from the Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church based in New York City. Our thoughts and prayers are for the success of your convention and the continuing advance of God’s mission in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Anne Rudig, our Communications Director is the DPP (Diocesan Partnership Program) liaison to this Diocese but she’s in the Executive Council this week, so I am here on her behalf. (My own DPP's are the dioceses of Albany, Easton and Rochester). I hope you welcome me as you would her, though I am not as beautiful and blond as she is.

As missioner for Asiamerica Ministries my message is diversity. I believe there is a deep yearning in the Church for greater diversity. Diversity in all its forms –ethnic, racial, cultural, gender---and their inclusion into the mainstream life and mission is, I believe, the key to spiritual revival and church growth. America's motto is "e-pluribus unum" (out of many, one); American Christian mission is "unity in diversity."
You know among Asian and Latino communities growing rapidly in many of your cities, our staple food is rice. Rumor has it that when there is a fog in the valley, it is because the Filipinos in Stockton, Delano and Tracy are cooking rice for breakfast! So I think Bishop David Rice, by his name and based on what I observed today, can usher in this diversity. With his dynamism, energy and vision, people will come in and become part of an exciting and welcoming church. 

The San Joaquin Valley is one of “the bread baskets” of the world. I pray that the Diocese of San Joaquin will also become one of the “salad bowl dioceses” of races, cultures and peoples in the Episcopal Church.
 It may interest you to know that as church wide Asiamerica missioner, I am also serving as a (very part-time) Priest-in-Charge of a parish in New York that left The Episcopal Church (and was won back) and so I understand your confounded longings. St. James Church in Elmhurst, Queens in the Diocese of Long Island is a historic church founded in 1704. One of its early rectors was the first bishop and presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Samuel Seabury. Like many churches, it had its ups and downs in history. When the land and property were returned to the Diocese of Long Island after years of litigation only a few people remained. By God’s grace, we experienced revival and in a year’s time, we grew from 25 to 120.

I believe the challenge is to lay-off the baggage of the past (as your theme “travel light” implies), to forgive the pains, heal the wounds, and to move forward to what lies ahead. The mission fields are ripe for harvest and they are right on our doorsteps and neighborhoods. With the leadership of your new bishop named Rice, I believe a new day has come to your diocese!

In the Missionary Society table, I have some literature that will help you know of some partnership programs with the wider church. Bishop David Rice, Chancellor Michael Glass, Canon Kate Cullinane and all faithful clergy and people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, thank you so much for welcoming me.