Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Thursday, December 22, 2011


POWER OF WORDS – By Fred Vergara

Two cancer patients were given the same prognosis: “you have three months to live.” One negatively said, “Woe unto me, I may die soon!” He died after three weeks. The other one positively said, “I will survive and live forever.” He survived and has been in remission.

Words have power and we must be careful with our words. The words we speak, especially coming from our heart, can mean either life or death. Solomon, the wisest king of Israel said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

When I was a student chaplain, I often visited pre-ops patient and would teach them how to say positive words prior to surgery. I believe that the desire, the will and the words of the patient have a lot to do with the success of the surgery just as much as the skill of the surgeon. If the patient confesses death, then death-consciousness will begin to work in his system. If he confesses life, the body begins to release the natural forces of healing to make his desire or prayer come true.

This is also true among the elderly who have retired from work. When the mind begins to think of itself as old and confesses, “I’m retired now; I am too old to do anything productive,” then the body will respond to these words and rapid aging would take place. The mind begins to lose memory, the body becomes inactive, the bones atrophy. On the other hand, if one says, “my experiences give me more wisdom and I am learning more about life now that I've never known before,” then youthful enthusiasm kicks in, youthful energy is ignited and youthful aging gracefully moves.

Age is more than chronology, it is a state of the mind and is influenced by the things we think and the words we say.  That is why we find many active and strong elderly people in church. Church activities make them young. Singing and making melody to the Lord make them remember. Serving, sharing, being hospitable to others make them active. Teaching and learning new things make them alive. Talking with both young and old make them happy. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. A broken spirit drieth the bones but a merry tongue from the merry heart is the joy of the Lord!
One other thing that positive words can change is poverty. I have lived, studied and traveled far and wide to know that poverty is not of God. I believe poverty is a curse of the devil and those who create and operate systems that perpetuate poverty are of the devil. I would not mention the countries, but I have seen many who suffer in abject poverty, struggling to survive just one more day. As a youth activist in the 1970’s, I had seen and experienced slum dwellers near the garbage “smoky mountain” who ate under the mosquito nets because the flies are swarming around the dining area. Oppressive poverty where people are chained in misery and hopelessness is demonic. God desires to deliver His people from the curses of sin, poverty, disease and death. His Son, Jesus Christ came to give us life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

As individuals, changing our self-image is one of the keys to deliverance from poverty. If we create a self-image of being poor, then we will always be poor and in need of other people’s hand-outs. On the other hand, if we create a self-image of being wealthy, then we attract the forces of prosperity. By confessing strength, the weak becomes strong; by confessing wealth, the poor becomes rich. The road to health, wealth and joy begins from the spirit and the mind. By trusting God and working hard to reach your dream, you will be able to lift yourself up from the quagmire of poverty and move into a place where you can share the bounties of the earth---and give enough for the Lord’s work.

Speaking creative and positive words started with God who from darkness said, “let there be light”--- and there was light. Creatio ex nihilo. God created something from nothing. The Bible says that the world, as we know it, was framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. It is another way of saying that the universe came into existence by creative divine words.

Of course, we are not God to create something from nothing. But no matter who you are and where you are, you have at least “some” thing. There is not one person who has nothing. You have at least one thing or two things to start with. All you need is faith: believe in God, believe in yourself and speak your faith. Jesus said that if you have faith even as small as a mustard seed you can say to the mulberry tree, be uprooted and thrown into the sea, and it will happen (.Luke 17:6).  In modern parlance, if you have faith like a microchip, you can fly me to the moon. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, the confessing of things we dream of” (Hebrews 11).

The principle of faith operates in the words we speak. So instead of whining and complaining, which are depressive to the spirit, soul and body, why not confess positive, creative and inspiring words? Proverbs 25:11 says, “Words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” So begin by aptly saying to yourself, “I am strong; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am beautiful. I am smart; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then like Mary, end by saying, ‘Lord, let it be done to me, according to Thy Word.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Calling, Conviction, Clarity: Commisioning of Ethnic Ministers

Calling, Conviction, Clarity:  Homily at “Train the Trainers” Event
(Commissioning of Ethnic Ministries Ambassadors)
Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara 12.15.11 Los Angeles, California

In most of history, there are three factors that make up the recipe of a revolutionary change: common experience of pain, common vision of hope and the emergence of authentic leaders who embody their people’s pains and visions. In the Church, it is not the institution that can effect real change, but a group of Christians who are keenly sensitive to the cry of God’s people, and who, like Mary of the Magnificat, would earnestly respond to the will of God.

Some portions of these elements are present among us today, and I prophesy that someday, we shall effect this revolutionary change in our beloved Church. A Chinese proverb says, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” You as leaders from the four ethnic communities have just began to tie up the thongs of your sandals in order to march in the light of Christ, no longer behind, but alongside the enlightened members of the dominant culture---and effect, real change. 

God is still in the business of renewing the face of the earth and rearranging the order of things. “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has shown the strength of His arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.” I am certain that us, who come from the margins, are being called by God to announce repentance and change so that the structures of racism and injustice will be dismantled and the disparity that exists between and among peoples and cultures will cease to exist. Justice and equity will come together, harmony and diversity will kiss each other.

As a concluding remark to the many lessons that you have already learned these past three days, let me just say three things why I believe you can be part of change:

First, is your sense of calling: After observing you and listening to how you responded to the presentations of your Ethnic Missioners, I am now starting to believe that it was not us who called you and invited you, but God Himself through the Holy Spirit. For not only that you exhibit a sense of mission but you also demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit and even more possess the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Second is your sense of conviction: I heard many of you expressing your passion for mission and your willingness to be used by God as bridges, conduits or broad bands of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.

Thirdly and finally, is your sense of clarity. This is very important, because, I believe the Church today is losing, if not already lost her message. In this time of anxiety, volatility, uncertainty and complexity, the Church is experiencing a fog of mission and a sense of confusion.

I remember an event when the pope died and a conclave was called in the Vatican City in Rome to elect a new pope. Unlike the Episcopal Church’s General Convention where election of the Presiding Bishop is an open assembly, a conclave is a secret meeting where the cardinals are locked in a room and they retreat to their prayer cubicles, seek discernment from the almighty and cast their votes. The people gathered at St. Peter’s Square will know if the pope is elected or not elected through the smoke that comes out from the chimney of the Vatican. When a Pope is not elected, the cardinals would burn their ballots and a black smoke will come out. But when a pope is elected, they will put a certain chemical and a white smoke will appear. Now in this particular election, there was not enough chemical put and so the smoke that came out was neither black nor white but grey----and the people outside were confused.

I am inclined to say that much as you will be the “ambassadors of the Diversity, Social and Environmental Ministries of the Missions Department of the Episcopal Church,” you must have the clarity that your primary role as a Christians and as Episcopalians is to become an ambassador for Christ, Christ making His appeal through you and entrusted you with the ministry of reconciliation. We do not have a mission of our own; we are only entrusted to become instruments of Christ’s mission. We do not have a ministry of our own, we are only entrusted with the ministry of Christ, like baby-sitters of God’s own children.

Sam reminded us yesterday that when all is said and done, our real calling is the salvation of souls. John Wesley, the Anglican priest who founded the Methodist Church a century or so ago, once said to the clergy and lay leaders: ”You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent on it. It is not by doing this or doing that, but being a member of this organization or that society, but it is by saving as many souls as you can and to bring them up to that holiness without which we can not see the Lord.”

It is this clarity of your message, this sense of mission and this conviction of your calling that would make you as true ambassadors. And so it is proper for us, the four Ethnic Missioners, to now call you our colleagues and fellow missioners. Let our common calling be grounded by faith, let our conviction be sustained by hope and let the clarity of our message be shaped by love. Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

where It All Began- A Christmas Message

As missioner for Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Despite all its challenges, the Year 2011 brought tremendous blessings to us. All the ethnic convocations have met to plan their activities and their representatives have gathered to share best practices and strategize for the future. I am grateful to Jim Kodera+ for serving as EAM Council president from 2009 to 2011 and I pray for Bayani Rico+ who now carries the torch of leadership for the future.

The Chinese Convocation developed their E-Newsletter as an avenue for regular communication. The Korean Convocation started three new ministries in three dioceses: Washington DC, Hawaii and Maryland. The Filipino Convocation continues to grow in numbers with its Las Vegas congregation receiving a grant from Domestic Missionary partnership for expansion. The Japanese Convocation is experiencing a new revitalization. The Southeast Asian Convocation has lifted up Toua Vang as the first Hmong seminarian and a Vietnamese mission has just become a full-pledged parish. The South Asian Convocation is renewing ties with Church of South India, Church of North India and Mar Thoma Church..
The diocesan EAM Commission of California held its first regional EAM Consultation (2011); to be followed by the EAM Commission of Long Island (2012). The EAM partnership with Episcopal Divinity School towards a Doctor of Ministry program from the global perspective of Asian Episcopalian will begin on June 2012. The EAM Young Adults are being reactivated and an EAM Youth Camp on Summer 2012 is being  organized by Holy Apostles' Parish in Minnesota

The EAM Network has become more than just a sounding board for ministry and resources. It has become a prayer group, a support group, a Barnabas (encourager) group. We have become a spiritual community, a web of relationships of Asians and Asian Americans, bearing connectedness to our historical past and the homelands we left behind and navigating the challenge of assimilating into the culture we find ourselves. The burden becomes bearable and the struggle endurable because these are lived in the context of collegiality, community and solidarity. The collaboration in mission finds its fulfillment in the confluence of diversity: Asians, Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native American and the Anglo-European communities of the Episcopal Church. We are all streams of water flowing into the ocean of God’s loving embrace.

The Christmas manger is the place where all our journeys really started. The birth of Jesus, the Holy Child, was the first step of that arduous mission to reconcile the world and each other to God. The passion and crucifixion of Christ brought the final touches in the divine masterpiece called the incarnation. The resurrection brings forth the promise of a new and abundant on earth and eternal life in the heavens. Eternity was already signed, sealed and delivered into the hearts of those who believe.

“We shall never cease from exploring,” wrote the poet T. S. Elliot,” and the end of all our exploring is to arrive to where we started and know the place for the first time.” On this Christmas season, let us arrive to where we have begun and know the manger for the first time. With faith, hope and love, love, love.
The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara
Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry
The Episcopal Church Center