Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Delivered by The Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, missioner for Asiamerica Ministries of the Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church and priest-in-charge of St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst NY 11373. January 26, 2014.

I would like to thank and congratulate each one of you today who attended this first service of our Chinese-English Worship. You have become part of a new history in the making. One Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Today is the first step in a long and beautiful journey as a new Sunday congregation of St. James Church. We may not be many but let us not despise a small beginning. Like the parable of Jesus about the kingdom of God, we are like the mustard seed planted in the Word of God. We shall grow into a large tree where people can take shelter and be refreshed.

Some people asked me why we need a Chinese language worship and these are my three reasons:

First, it is our response to the spiritual need of the growing Chinese population in Elmhurst.  As immigrants to this country, we have so many needs: material, health needs, social and financial needs. But the greatest need is spiritual. We need God. The Bible says, “Without God, we can do nothing; but with God, nothing is impossible.” And the greatest gift that the Church can share to the world is the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “ I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). I do not say it with arrogance but with respect for other religions. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is that He is God who became human being like us, so that we might be saved from sin and death. I believe Christians were saved for two reasons, one big and the other bigger. The big reason is that we may have eternal life; the bigger reason, is that we may be bringers of God’s message of eternal life to others.

Second reason why we need a Chinese service is because worship is a language of the heart. God speaks in the language of His people. We respond in the language of our hearts. The Bible is like God’s love letter to his friends. It must be readable and understandable. There are many Chinese people in our community, especially the new immigrants who have difficulty in the English language. Mandarin is the language of their hearts. In this service, we are using Mandarin with English subtitles. Let us sing songs of praise and worship; let us hear the Word of God; and let us pray to the Lord in the language of our hearts.

Third and final reason is that Christianity is also an Asian religion. Christianity is not a foreign religion to us. Recent discoveries support the view that Asian Christianity antedates European Christianity. In 52 A.D., the Apostle Thomas (one of the twelve apostles of Jesus) went to India and established churches there until he was martyred in Madras in 72 A.D. The Nestorian Christian missionaries went to China in 635 A.D. and preached the Gospel during the Tang and the Ming dynasties. They were suppressed by imperial regimes but the imprints of their messages in ancestral tablets, shrines and historical landmarks continue to be discovered even today. There is a truth to the saying that before the European missionaries went to China, Christ was already there.

St. Thomas, the Apostle.
Mar Thoma Church in India so named in honor of St. Thomas. Mar Thoma Church is in full communion with The Episcopal Church
The famous Nestorian Christian Cross discovered in China with Lotus at the center of the cross. Lotus rerpesents Christ.
The Nestorian Cross was adapted by the EAM; the cross was designed by Christopher Denn Blaker and commissioned by former missioner for Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry, Dr. Winston Ching.

The Nestorian Stele during the Tang Dynasty.
I believe these three reasons are strong enough to convince anyone that we need to have this Worship Service in Chinese here in Elmhurst, the new Chinatown in Queens, New York, because the Chinese Americans belong to Christ and Christ belongs to them. Please spread the word around: All Are Welcome at St. James because all are welcome in Christ. Amen.
Below is the Chinese Translation
(Translated by Elizabeth Mui)


        講員:韋洪道牧師 (聖公會聖雅各堂 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY)

        一部份。 中國有一句俗語這樣 :「一千英里的旅程是開始的第一部。」 今天在

        有人問我:為什麼需要成立中文崇拜? 以下有三個理由:
        () 中文崇拜能讓皇后區的艾姆赫斯特華人不斷增加和幫助屬靈上的需要
             (約翰福音十四: 6) 我不是它與傲慢,但是也要尊重別的宗教。耶穌基督的
               獨特性是「祂是   神,祂成為人來拯救我們,從罪惡和死亡拯救了我們。
               相信基督徒得到救恩之後,是有兩個理由: 大或最大,最大的理由是我們有
               永恆的生命,更主要的理由是   神救贖了我們。
        () 中文崇拜能表達心靈上的語言
               上帝向我們說話是使我們從心靈回應上帝的話。 聖經像一本   神的情書寫給
               我們,是可以閱讀和理解。 有許多中國人在這社會裡,尤其是有很多新移民
               對英語有困難,國語(普通話) 是他們心中的語言。 在崇拜裡,我們可以用普
               通話來對話和英文字幕。 讓我們唱詩歌來讚美上帝:我們一同來聽上帝的話

        () 基督教也是亞洲的宗教
               的觀點。 主後 52 年,使徒多馬 (耶穌十二使徒之一) 到了印度去建立教會,
               直到西元 72 年,他犧牲在馬德拉斯。 景教基督教傳教士到了中國,那年是
               西元 635 年,就是在唐朝和明朝的朝代傳福音。 他們被壓制,但是他們祖

        聖雅各堂非常歡迎你們來參加,因為主耶穌基督也歡迎你們。  阿們!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


The Baptism of our LORD: 

Like Jesus, We are Also God's Beloved

(Text Isaiah 42:1-9; Acts 10:34-34-43; Matthew3:13-17)

Editor's Note: This is a guest blog, a sermon from a good friend, The Rev. Tinh Tang Huynh, Rector of St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, an Anglo-Vietnamese Parish in Falls Church, Virginia, USA, delivered last Jan. 12, 2014.

Recently I watched on YouTube a two-year old Japanese boy singing with his parents the song, "God will take care of you." He was so cute, and he sang so well, with pitch right on. He had no fear of the crowd. I was so fascinated, and so was his audience who gave him loud cheers. What also impressed me was the faith as revealed in the singing of his parents. 

Note: if you want to see this video, copy and paste the link in your browser. -Fred)


I also sang this song in Vietnamese when I was growing up. 

Christians all over the world proclaim the same message, “God will take care of you." Yet, sometimes, we do forget that message.

In the sixth century before Christ, the Jewish people were in exile in Babylon. The atrocities they suffered are written in the Book of Kings, in the Old Testament.
At his defeat, the Jewish king had to witness the killing of his sons, and his eyes were then removed by the enemies, and most of the Jewish men were taken to Babylon.
The passage from Isaiah that we read this morning was spoken by the prophet
who dared to speak the word of hope to those in pain.

"Thus says the LORD, 'Here is my servant...I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.’ “In other words, “You exiles longing for the homeland;
You who are weary saying, 'Give me a break’; You who are anxious about tomorrow:
Listen, God will take care of you."

How could Isaiah say the above lines in the midst of such tragedy?

The same question is asked of the psalmist who says in Psalm 89 that we read this morning. How could they utter those words of hope amidst adversity? The psalmist spoke of God's power upon even the mighty waters. He says that the voice of the Lord is full of majesty, breaking the huge trees, flashing forth flames of fire, shaking the wilderness, and stripping the forest bare.

And yet this very God loves his people. He uses his words to calm the stormy sea. "He gives strength to his people, and blesses them with peace." These are Isaiah's words to those who think or say that God has forgotten them: “Listen, God has not forgotten you. It's just you who chooses to focus on your problems and let’s yourself fall into despair."

In the Christian tradition, we name this Sunday "The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Gospel story we read this morning is called a theophany. It is a happening in which one has a vision and experience of the appearance of God. It is not the appearance of a god who is stern or unforgiving. It is the appearance of God the Creator, the Father who calls humanity beloved. It is the manifestation of the God who cares.

Somehow, John the Baptist knew that the Savior is near. He must have been somewhere very close to him. He looks forward to meeting the Son of God. The faith of John the Baptist was childlike. He waited, and he trusted in the LORD. He had only one thing in his mind, the LORD himself.

This is exactly what the writer of Matthew is about. In another place of the same gospel we find these words: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The theme keeps ringing in the hearts of believers: Seek Him first, and He will take care of you."

There are two things that are essential in the life of the Christian, which we sum up in today's Collect (prayer of the day): First, we are to keep the covenant we made in baptism; second, we are to boldly confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

In the Collect, we say we are baptized into Jesus' Name, not merely baptized in His Name. As baptized Christian we are one with Christ. Like Jesus, we are beloved children of God. Like Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit. God calls us not to let the things of this world to distract us from our 'belovedness.' 

The Lord has come. John witnessed his appearance. Many Christians all over the world witness his presence, in many different ways. The Lord came in meekness and humility. Not counting his majesty, he brought to us peace and healing. Can we claim our belovedness each time anxiety hit us? God will take care of us, no matter how challenging life can be. Amen.
The Rev. Tinh (seated 2nd from left) also served as Secretary of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Council.This is the 2009 photo of the previous EAM Council,  meeting in Dayspring Conference Center near Tampa, Florida.