Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Friday, July 19, 2013



This is the second installment of our Course. An overview: The `17 Historical Books of the Old Testament order the sequence of the biblical eras thus: Creation-Patriarchs-Exodus-Conquest-Judges-Kingdom-Prophets-Exile-Return-Judaism (Legalism)
What are "events" familiar to you in the following Eras?

I. CREATION ERA (Genesis 1-11)
A.  What are the major events in the Creation Era?
1.   Creation of the world (Gen. 1:1 - 2:3)             
2.   Creation of Humanity (2: 4-25)                       
3.   The Fall of Humanity  (3: 1-24)                      
4.   Brothers Cain and Abel (4: 1-26)                   
5. Genealogy: Adam to Noah (Gen. 5: 1-32)
6. Story of Noah (Gen. 6:1 - 10:32)
7. The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11: 1-9)
1. God created the world and made Man in "his own image," giving him "free will." God's
original plan was for man to worship God and serve one another in community. They will have stewardship of God's creation.

2. Man sinned and destroyed God's original purpose. Because of sin, relationships were broken: (a) God and humanity; (b) Male and Female; (c) Brother and Brother; (d) Heavenly and Earthly (Gen. 6: 1-4); Nations and Nations (e.g. Babel, Gen. 11: 1-9).
3. The Flood was God's first attempt at renewing "Creation 1" by destroying the faithless and starting anew with Noah and his family. The "rainbow" became the sign of God's covenant with Noah. There was relative peace for a while, but then as people increased, human pride reared again its ugly head when they began to "build a tower that reaches to heavens" (Gen. 11). God frustrated their plans by confusing their language. This was the first "dispersion" as people were scattered over the face of the earth.
4. The Sequence that keeps repeating in Creation Era is this: (a) Generation-Degeneration--Regeneration; (b) Formation-Disintegration-Restoration.

1. God created us that we may honor God and live harmoniously in community.
(Genesis 1:27-31; Ephesians 1:9-10; Revelations 4:11)
2.  Man sinned and destroyed relationships. (Genesis 2:8-10; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23)
3. Christ came to heal broken relationships. (John 3:16; John 10:10)
4. We are children of  God by receiving Christ. (John 1:12)
4. The mission is of the Church is to continue the mission of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Question: "The mission of the Church is restore all people to unity with God and each other, in Christ. (BCP, 855).What is the mission of your church? How do you live out that mission?

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Walk Through The Bible
(A Basic Bible Course)

Introduction: How to Study the bible Systematically
 The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara
  Listen to a story from Max Anders:

“Many years ago, I decided I was going to master the Bible. I was going to begin with Genesis, read on to Revelation, and I wasn’t going to put it down until I understand it.  I soon became hopelessly entangled in a jungle of fantastic stories, unpronounceable names, broken plots, unanswered questions, and endless genealogies. I stubbed my toe on Leviticus, sprained my ankle on Job, hit my head on Ecclesiastes, and fell headlong into the mud on Habakkuk… I was defeated. I threw my Bible down. Then one day, I discovered a key. With this key, the fog that enshrouded my understanding of the Bible began to lift up.” (From Max Anders: 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, c. 1988) 

I fully identify myself with Anders and I guess so would many of you, so I decided to share what I learned over the years. I teach this Course at my home parish, St. James Church in Elmhurst, New York and I'm going to share with you, the written format.  I hope that with this, I am able to impart the "key" that will help unlock the mysteries of the Holy Scriptures.

I have read many books on systematic Bible Study but two of them that I found simple and useful are Max Anders, “30 Days to Understanding the Bible” (Zondervan, Dickson, TN: c. 1988) and Harry N. Wendt, “The Bible’s Big Story: Our Story (Crossways, Minneapolis: c. 1997). I incorporated some of their insights into my own.


If you want to learn architecture, you must first learn how buildings are put together. If you want to study the development of the human being, you have to start from conception. A key to better understanding of the Bible, begins with the study of  its structure and timelines.

This morning, I was re-arranging the books in my office and I was amazed to find out how in ten years of being in New York, I was able to accumulate so many books and papers. I tried to arrange them into themes or topics (e.g., liturgical, evangelistic, theological, etc..) and it dawned on me that the same thing can be said about the Bible. The Bible is not one book but a library of books. As a library of books, it does not fit in just one shelf but many shelves. It consists of two major divisions: the Old Testament and the New Testament which altogether compose sixty-six books. It has a third division called the “Apocrypha” or the non-canonical books. For our purpose in this course, we will concentrate on the 66 canonical books.

The Old Testament division begins with Creation and moves on to tell the story of human beings (Adam), the history of the Hebrew nation starting from Father Abraham up to the time of the major and minor prophets, some of whom foretold the birth of Christ. The Old Testament is made of 39 books, written by 28 different authors and covers a period of about 2,000 years.

It is said that the Old Testament is essentially the prophecy of Christ and the New Testament is the fulfillment of it. The New Testament records the birth, life, baptism, temptation, ministry, suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It narrates the acts and ministries of his disciples, the birth of the Jewish Church, and the missionary expansion of the universal Church. The New Testament is composed of 27 books written by 9 different authors and covers a period of about 100 years.

In summary, there are altogether 66 books; ____ books in the Old Testament; and ___ books in the New Testament.

The secret to understanding the Old Testament is to divide the 39 books into three sections, namely: Historical, Poetical, and Prophetical books. What kind of information, would you find in the historical books? …History! What kind of information, you would find in the poetical books? … Poetry! What of information, you would find in the prophetical books? ... Prophecy!
We will now divide the Old Testament books, into three sections:
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy
6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. Samuel
10. Samuel
11. 1st. Kings
12. 2nd Kings
13. 1st Chronicles
14. 2nd Chronicles
15.  Ezra
16. Nehemiah
17. Esther

1. Job
2. Psalms
3. Proverbs
4. Ecclesiastes
5. Song of Solomon
1. Isaiah
2. Jeremiah
3. Lamentations
4. Ezekiel
5. David
6. Hosea
7. Joel
8. Amos
9. Obadiah
10. Jonah
11. Micah
12. Nahum
13. Habakkuk
14. Zephaniah
15. Haggai
16. Zechariah
17. Malachi

The story of Israel (Hebrew nation) is in the first seventeen (17) books of the Old Testament. The poetry (and songs) of Israel is in the next five (5) books; and the prophecy of Israel is in the final seventeen (17) books. In summary, the first ____Old Testament books are historical; the next ____ books are poetic; and the last ____ books are prophetic. Altogether, there are ____books in the Old Testament considered to be h_____________, p___________ and p___________________.
You may note that this is quite an oversimplified categorization. The truth is, there are some poems in the historical books and there are some historical elements in the prophetic books. The point however is that each of the book fits into a primary category. You may also note that the books are ordered in sequence as they appear in the Bible. This will help you to memorize the books better. Instead of memorizing the 39 books; you memorize into categories -- historical books first; then poetical; finally prophetical books.

This will be the Outline of our Study for the next several weeks: Hope you join us:

Section I: Old Testament Historical Books                           Dates: 2013
1.       Creation Era: Adam and Eve and Us                                                  07/19     
2.       Patriarch Era: Abraham and the Chosen People                                 07/26   
3.       Exodus Era: Moses and Human Liberation                                         08/02
4.       Conquest Era: Joshua in Canaan’s Land                                              08/09
5.       Judges Era: Samson the Strong and Ruth the Faithful                         08/16
6.       Kingdom Era: David and the Kings of Israel                                       08/23
7.       Exile Era: Grace in Humiliation                                                           08/30
8.       Return Era: Rebuilding Jerusalem                                                        09/06
9.       Legalism Era: The Rise of Pharisees & Fundamentalism                    09/13

Section II: Old Testament Poetic al Books
10.   The Middle Five Books: Types of Hebrew Poetry                                09/20
11.   The Middle Five Books: Main Messages of Hebrew Poetry                 09/27

Section III: The Old Testament Prophetic Books
12.   The Final 17 Books: Major and Minor Prophets                                   10/04

Section IV: The New Testament Books
13.   New Testament: Geography and History                                               10/11
14.   New Testament: The Gospel Era                                                            10/18
15.   New Testament:  The Church Era                                                           10/25
16.   New Testament: The Missions Era                                                          11/01
17.   The Epistles: Problems, Principles, Practices                                          11/08
18.   Conclusion: The Bible According to Jesus                                              11/15

Thursday, July 11, 2013



A July 4th Sermon

(Sermon by The Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara at St. James’ Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst, New York on April 7, 2013 in celebration of July 4th Weekend.)

Please remain standing as we declare our positive affirmation:
I am a child of God; I believe in His Word. I breathe the Holy Spirit. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I push out negative thoughts, I take in positive thoughts. I push out sickness, I take in good health. I push out poverty, I take in prosperity. I push out hatred, I take in love. I push out despair, I take in hope; I push out sadness I take in joy. And now, I will share the Good News to my friends, to my family, to my neighbors here and all over the world in Jesus Name. Amen.”  (Please be seated).

Let me start with something funny. An immigrant named Jose finally became a U.S. Citizen. After the swearing-in ceremony, he called long-distance to his home country. “Mom, Dad, I really like America; and they really liked me too. As a matter of fact, when I took my oath as a new citizen, they sang to me a special song.” O really?” His parents ask, what song did they sing?” Jose intoned, “Oh  JO-SE can you see…” 

Okay, if you don’t laugh at this joke, you may be an ugly American, so here’s another one. To those of you who are not natural-born US citizens, you are familiar with the fact that before you can be a naturalized U.S. citizen, you have to pass a Citizenship Examination which consists of a few questions on American history, culture and politics. So this was the story of an elderly immigrant from my home country, the Philippines, who was interviewed for U.S. Citizenship. He comes from the province of Ilocos, where my paternal grandfather came from, and so they speak Ilocano, than Tagalog. We’ll call his name, “Manong,” because he is an elderly man. In fact, we call an elderly person “Manong” as a sign of respect.

Well, seeing that he was around 70 years old, the INS interviewer in California decided to give him two easy questions, so he asked Manong. “Who is the president of the United States?” Manong answered in Ilocano saying “Narigat,” which actually means, “It’s difficult” but at that in the early 1980’s Reagan was the president, so the interviewer said, “That sounds correct, but next time, pronounce it better.” Then the interviewer asked another question, “And who is the governor of California?” Manong again responded in Ilocano saying, “Diak amum,” which actually means, “I don’t know.” But at that time, the governor of California was Deukmejian, so the interviewer remarked, “that's right, but next time, please pronounce it better.” (Manong became a U.S. citizen for speaking Ilocano!) Now, if you did not laugh with that joke, you are really an ugly American.

This morning, let me preach on something that relates to July 4tth celebration. We all know that we celebrate July 4th as the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.  A developing country in Asia, the Philippines, celebrates its independence from almost 400 years of Spanish colonization, which ended on June 12, 1898. It is wonderful to know that a developed country, like the United States of America, celebrates its own independence from English colonization, even though in lesser years. (The 13 original colonies were founded by the British government and populated by British citizens from 1607-1733. The "Americans" or "Patriots" in 1776 ended British rule over these former colonies)

So let me share some reasons why I chose America to be my second home:

  1. First reason, America is a welcoming nation.                                                                             We are a nation of immigrants.  Of course, we owe this beginning from the hospitality of the indigenous Native Americans who welcomed the Puritans from England and Europe. While there are some issues regarding the relationships between the cowboys and the Indians, the fact of history is that this superpower nation has now become not only a melting pot of Anglo European races, but a “salad bowl” of races, colors and cultures—Indigenous Americans, Africans, Latinos, Asians. People from all races, cultures, nations have immigrated to this county for various reasons: economic, political, religious, education and what have you.  I have been to Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Rome, Geneva, Nairobi and various cities in Asia, Africa and Europe but there is nothing compared to New York City in the U.S.A. In many of these cities, there is an equivalent of “Times Square” but in “European  Times Squares, “the dominant color is white; in “African Times Square,” the dominant color is Black; in “Asian Times Squares,” the dominant color is brown or yellow---but in Times Square in New York City, there is no dominant color. There is rather the color of the rainbow---black, white, and brown, red, yellow---and what have you.
This country of immigrants is being copied in various parts of the world. Almost every well-meaning population planner now understands that immigrants fuel the economy rather than drain the economy. They supply the new energy, the new talents, and the new energy. They revitalize the economy and they are motivated by new dreams and visions---and they are willing to work hard to achieve it.

The concrete evidence of America as a welcoming nation is its theory and practice of citizenship: you can be an American no matter where you come from.  Of course, becoming a U.S. president is still reserved for natural-born American citizens that are why detractors of President Obama often harp on where he was born. But in many spheres of life (e.g. Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California), you can be from Russia, China, India or Timbuktu and you can still become an American citizen.

 I think there is an irony there when a naturalized American citizen would become hostile and antagonistic to other immigrants. A parody of this ungrateful immigrant was made by Yacoff Smirnoff, who after becoming a U.S. citizen was asked, “what do you like about this country?’ and he said, “It’s the American people” and “what don’t you like about America?” and he said, “Those damn immigrants!” I think the Bible has something to say about this: Even before Israel became a nation, a great nation, God spoke to the Hebrews in Exodus 22:21 “You must not mistreat or oppress immigrants in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once immigrants and even strangers in the land of Egypt.”

  1. The second thing I love about America is that it is a generous nation.                                    No nation on earth can match the innate generosity of the American people. Recently we had visitors from China who came to New York and visited the Episcopal Church Center. They come from the China Christian Council and wanted to learn about the American philanthropy. In one interview I made, one delegate said that generally, Chinese philanthropy stops at families. He believes, as a Chinese Christian, that for China (and any nation for that matter) to flourish, “the people’s generosity must be unbounded.”It may start with family but it must move on to the nation and to the world. It is wonderful to know that Christians in China are moving from the “three-self” (self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating) to the “three-well” (well-governing, well-supporting and well-propagating).
This generosity of American philanthropy is gained by the United States because of its strong Christian heritage. Most Americans believe in the “American Jeremiad” that we are a “city set on the hill,” that the DC in Washington, D.C. means “David’s City” than British Columbia. We are governed or influenced by the principles, values and practice of Christian stewardship that ultimately we own nothing in this world, and that our “time, talent and treasure” are God’s gifts and divine trusts. A person must learn to give of himself to others in order to have true and abundant life (John 10:10). The story of Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee in Palestine often illustrates that the attitude of “receiving without giving” leads to death (Dead Sea) but the lifestyle of “receiving and giving” leads to even more abundant life (Sea of Galilee).  Like the circulation of the blood or the flow of the river currents, this lifestyle of receiving and giving makes for health, energy and life.

  1. Finally, the third thing I love about America is that it is a freedom-loving nation.                     Freedom is enshrined in the Constitution as a human right.  Perhaps, we Episcopalians, can share in the historical legacy, that almost 2/3rd of the framers of the U.S. Constitution, including Thoma Jefferson, were said to be Episcopalians. They penned these eternal words, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Equality, liberty, freedom. These are the basic nature of God’s creation.  Even the birds cry when they are caged, so as crowns of creation, human beings must be free!
The American pledge of allegiance also says, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Americans will defend freedom at all cost because freedom is what makes us truly human---and should make us more humane.

A Filipino-American farm worker, Carlos Bulosan, wrote a fictional-autobiography, entitled America is in the Heart.   Set against the background  of the Great Depression and the sweltering heat of racism in the 1930’s, while working the fields of Delano, Watsonville, Stockton and Salinas (among other farmlands in California),  Bulosan found time to write  under the shade of a tree, this vision of America:

"America is not a land of one race, or class or institution
It is in the hearts of those who sought and died for freedom
It is in the eyes of those who seek to build a new world
America is a prophecy of a New Society."

A welcoming nation, a generous nation and freedom-loving nation---these are what makes me chose America to be my second home.