Monthly Archives: January 2013

“Your dad should teach you English!” – the ugly face of racial hate

A man came up to us and said loudly to my son, “Your dad should teach you English!”  Then he walked away.

A seemingly innocuous statement made by a complete stranger to my four year old whilst we were standing at the checkout of the Coles supermarket at Castle Towers.  My son just ignored it.  However, the fact it was said to my little boy at a volume loud enough so that everyone could hear it, and in a tone design to demean and condescend, I can’t but conclude that the remark was one which had a racist attitude at it’s heart and it was designed to humiliate myself and my boy.

Maybe this man was having a bad day? Maybe he was just playing a joke? Maybe he was just a jerk?

When I was a young, this kind of behaviour happened enough to maybe think that it was somehow acceptable in the playground or in the street or down at the shops. I’ve even experienced it to a lesser extent by senior clergy in the diocese that I’m a minister in (don’t worry I’m not going to label or name names or shame them … )  However, even though I have been on the receiving end of racism, I was secretly hoping that my kids would never be!  How wrong was I?

I understand that the bible is pretty clear that because of universal sinfulness, all people can and do turn against God and one another (Romans 3:23).  Although we find that God created the different races, languages and cultures (Genesis 11), because we understand that all people are sinful, we know that our sinfulness makes inter-personal relationships less than perfect – which is why some are racist in their sinfulness and imperfection.

I wonder if this is an area that Christians can actually be counter-cultural and helpful here?  Seeing that the end-point of where Christians are heading is heaven where there is:

9 …  a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)

Lots of Christians are involved in feeding the homeless, supporting fairtrade, lobbying their members of parliament to rectify all manner of social injustices.  However, maybe Christians could be more inclusive, caring, willing to relate to all people, especially to those from different culture to themselves – this would go a long way to closing off a significant blindspot in our generally mono-cultural churches.  The mere fact that I still get people at church saying to me, “I met this guy on the bus from Hong Kong. His name is Ken. Do you know him?”  suggests that even Christians in my own church don’t get it!  And by the way, the answer is “No!”

As Christians, let’s not reinforce racial stereotypes by being unwilling to make relationships with peoples of other cultures. If you show in your life that you don’t care about these sometimes superficial and physical differences, then this is a great model for others. Maybe it could be an opportunity for talking about Jesus?

And on top of all that, even though racists are douche-bags they deserve to hear about Jesus too?

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Conquering the ministry fog from young adults to adults (Observations)

Over the past two days, I have been in meetings with our Executive Minister, our Student Ministries Director and our Women’s minister in an effort to begin conquering the task of ministering to people who are transitioning from young adulthood to adulthood.

At SPCH, our reasonably loose definition of a young adult, is basically any person aged between 18 to 23-25 years old.  This means that anyone older than a young adult is considered an adult.

The reason why we have been meeting is because we have made the following observations in our church:

  1. In a basic poll of young adults, we have found that many have difficulty in naming even one person over 35 years old in our church whom they aspire to be like or want to learn anything from.  This is an indication of both a lack of access between the generations (disconnection) and also a diminished desire for young adults to actually want to be adults (disinterest) – ie who wants to be like their parents?
  2. Whereas, youth and young adult ministry is reasonably well defined in our church, ministries to adults are not well defined.  For example, our men’s ministry (Crewmen) caters for every male from ages 25-65 years old.  This is notoriously hard to define.  As a result, when we ask young adults “what is the perceived benefit of being part of our men’s ministry?”, many would struggle to come up with a reason that would warrant them invest energy or time in that unknown realm. 
  3. Moreover, because youth ministries and young adults ministries are well known to young adults, they may find it difficult to disengage from those “worlds” in order to engage with the “world” where their life-stages are taking them.  For example, we are finding more and more that young adults would love to stay involved in young adult ministries (and not ministries to adults) even when they’ve had their first children and are heading into their 30’s.  This is indicative of the great work those ministries have already been doing, and also probably a not-so-good job of adults engaging the young adults, but also an unwillingness for young adults to go beyond what they know into “the fog of the unknown” – ie the rest of their adult lives.

So how are we to minister to those disconnected, disinterested, disengaged … yet godly young adults?   Well we don’t know … yet … and hence we are going to start a discussion.

A way forward?

Given our observations, it seems an insurmountable task to plan the next move in ministry – like fog over that chess board!  But we’ve got to have a crack at it.

And whilst we have a go at it, let’s assume that I will be writing from a reformed, evangelical and anglican theological perspective.  So even if I don’t show all my “working” with decisions and observations, please assume my assumption.

As we continue our conversation among our staff and church, please keep looking out for further updates to this thread.  But if you have any awesome insights or you want to start a debate, then I’m all ears – email me at eric.cheung [at] spch.org.au or find me on twitter @itsEricCheung

New Sermon Series beginning Sunday 3rd February at SPCH

Unexpected-God-1280-720-01

  • Sunday Services:
    8:00am – Traditional
    10:00am – Contemporary
    5:00pm – Contemporary
    7:00pm – Contemporary

 

Trinity and Church

This is an excerpt of a sermon preached in November 2012.  

definition of church

‘The church is the people called by God for the sake of his Son to be gathered into him (the Son) by the Spirit’.

So now, let’s unpack how the Bible defines church, and there are three points.

The first point is that the church is the gathered people. In the NT, the word ‘Church’ or ‘Ekklesia’ basically means assembly or gathering and is often used to describe local gatherings of Christians, so e.g. in Acts 13:1, it talks about ‘the church at Antioch’ which is basically referring to the Christian gathering at Antioch.

But the church referred to in the Bible means more than individual assemblies. The NT church is the continuation of OT people of God. As the OT story unfolds, we see God actively gathering a people to himself. The nation of Israel is referred to as God’s people. In Exodus 6:7,

“the LORD said to the Israelites, I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. “

But this nation was eventually scattered and God again promised to gather them. The LORD says in Ezekiel 11:17ff,

“I will gather you from the nations … (v20) [You] will be my people, and I will be [your] God. “

The people of God also included non-Israelites. Isa 2:2-3 tells us that many peoples from other nations will come and gather in Zion. In the NT, this gathering happens around Jesus. Jesus says in John 10: 14ff,

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

The church is the gathering of Jesus’ flock. The people of God are the gathered, the ones who have listened and trusted the voice of Jesus and followed him. The church includes those in ages past, to us in the present and those still to be gathered in the future. This is how the writer of Hebrews describe church in 12:22ff,

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, […], 24 to Jesus…

The church is the assembly gathered around God and Jesus, and notice who the church belongs to? The church belongs to Christ, and this brings us to the second point.

The second point is that the Church is the gathering of those called by God for the sake of his Son. The church is Christocentric. In other words, it is centred around Christ. The NT describes it as the church of the firstborn, the body of Christ, the temple which is also Jesus’ body, Jesus’ flock, the bride of Christ, etc.[1]

descriptions of the church

The church belongs to Christ because the church is given to the Son by the Father and it is gathered for the sake of the Son. Jesus says in John 10[:27-29] that the sheep are given to him by the Father; and Paul refers to the Roman Christians as those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ (in 1:6). God’s purpose for creating and redeeming his people is primarily to bring glory to the Son. The 3 persons in the Godhead has always been other-centred – the Father glorifies the Son, the Son glorifies the Father and the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son; and yet all glory is appropriately directed to himself as God since he is the only one deserving of glory and worship– the 3 persons in perfect relationship before time and creation. And so the triune God can exist without us. God doesn’t really need to create us or redeem us or gather us; yet the Father chose to create and redeem his people in order to bring glory to the Son.

This is how Paul describes God’s grand plan in Col 1:15ff,

15 He [the Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The church is what God gave to his Son for the Son’s sake. God’s plan for the church is for her to be the beautiful bride for his Son, and for his Son to be the head of this unblemished and united body. This happens because of the Spirit, which is the next point.

So the third point is that the church is gathered into Christ through the indwelling of the Spirit. As we’ve been learning over this series on the Trinity, the three persons in the Trinity mutually indwell each other, so much so that the Triune Godhead is one God. Jesus tells us in John that the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father and that the Spirit is God’s Spirit but he is also the Spirit of the Son; this mutual indwelling of the Father, Son and Spirit is just mind-boggling.

perfect indwelling in godhead

But what is even more mind-boggling is that as God’s people we’re also caught up into this mutual indwelling. Let’s read from John 17: 20bff,

I pray also for those who will believe in me … 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us … 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus is praying that his people will be one with the same mutual indwelling as in the Trinity; but even more than that, he prays that we will be in the Father and the Son!  So, somehow the unity that God shares or their mutual indwelling is in some way extended to us! And this is made possible by the Spirit. Paul says in Eph 2:21-22:

21 In him [Christ] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

church gathered into jesus by spirit

Crudely speaking, the Spirit is almost like the bond or the glue that unites us into Christ, or the net that gathers us into him so that we are united as one body into Christ our head.

So, ‘The church is the people called by God for the sake of his Son to be gathered into him by the Spirit’.


End Note [1]:

  • The body of Christ Ro 12:4-5 See also 1Co 12:12,27; Eph 3:6; 5:23; Col 1:18,24; 2:19; 3:15
  • God’s building or temple 1Co 3:16-17 See also 1Co 3:10; 2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21-22; Heb 3:6; 10:21; 1Pe 2:5
  • A plant or vine Jn 15:1-8 See also Ro 11:17-24; 1Co 3:6-8
  • Jesus Christ’s flock Jn 10:14-16 See also Mt 25:33; Lk 12:32; Ac 20:28-29; 1Pe 5:2-4
  • The bride of Christ Rev 21:2 See also Eph 5:25-27,31-32; Rev 19:7; 22:17
  • God’s household or family Eph 2:19 See also Jn 8:35-36; Gal 6:10; Eph 3:15; 1Ti 3:15; Heb 2:11; 1Pe 2:17; 4:17

Automating our chicken coop (Introduction)

One of the fun things about holidays is tinkering around on projects that you never get around to normally during the year.  These last few years, I have had fun (and much frustration) tinkering around with Arduino.  The task for the Summer 2013 holidays was to automate our newly built chicken coop.  Whilst chickens actually need tending pretty much every day (to get their eggs and check water) wouldn’t it be good if your coop would regularly measure the humidity and air temperature and tweet you the feed levels?  Well I thought it might be good if it did, so I found some old parts and created a chicken coop bot!

The “proof of concept” bot has the following bill of materials:

  • Freetronics Etherten
  • Grove Base Board
  • Grove RTC
  • Grove Humidity and Temperature Sensor Pro
  • Parallax Ultrasonic Range finder

If you want your bot to tweet information then you will also need to get a https://thingspeak.com/ account and link it to your twitter account.

The great thing is that you can get code to get each of these components working.  However, I struggled to get them all working together at once.  Maybe it was part dodgy programming, part rushing and part quirkiness of arduino.

In the mean time, before my next post, why not get the components, follow the links to the respective component wikis to try out the code in order to familiarise you with how each actually works?

Today I forgot to bring my phone to church and church was so much better!

Samsung Galaxy Note II

I write this acknowledging that I am easily distracted and often find it difficult to concentrate during church.  I also write this acknowledging that I am a heavy user of my phone and I would admit that it is kind of the go-to device for much of my ministry and work – it has my bibles, diary, email, etc.

So this morning, in the rush to get out the door and arriving at church in reasonable time, I accidentally left my phone at home.  At first, I was really worried because what happened if someone wanted to make an appointment with me during the week? Or what happened if I just needed to check out the greek or hebrew to make sure that the preacher was correct? Or …..

Tentatively, I sat down at the back of church and tried to forget that my baby was alone at home unattended (actually the kids were probably abusing it playing endless levels of Angry birds!).  However, the most amazing thing happened.  Without my phone, I seemed to get probably 50% more out of church than usual.  I think I can reasonably guage this because I am a “church service junky” – that means I attend 4 services a Sunday because I am paid to and also want to go!

And the reason why it was so much better?  I’d say because I was not distracted by my phone.  Let me explain with 4 things I normally (and secretly do) during services:

  1. I wasn’t able to surf the net during a “flat spot” of a service/sermon.  This meant I was able to concentrate on the service/sermon and actually engage with the hard work that the preacher/service leaders had put into the service.  By the way, I don’t it is ever possible to have 100% engagement of all people all the time in a church service.  However, the easy distraction of the phone was not there today!
  2. I wasn’t able to chase through my phone bible on tangents.  I admit that often the preacher would say something and I would automatically chase in my mind and phone the idea or theme.  In the mean time, the preacher had preached another 5 minutes worth and I had missed a vital point by the time I re-engaged!
  3. I was thinking about Sunday and not this week’s work.  On my phone, it has a widget that shows me my tasks, another that shows me my current emails and another that shows me the next 3 days of appointments (yes it is a big home screen because it is a Samsung Galaxy Note).  However, my phone wasn’t available today, so I wasn’t being concerned about tomorrow but was able to concentrate on ministry in front of me today.
  4. I just wasn’t available to whomever was calling/texting. Being a church minister, I am staggered how available people expect me to be.  By accidentally forgetting my phone, I get to remind people that meeting with God’s people, praying and hearing God’s word has precedence in my life and it ought to in others.  Sure it means it is sub-optimum efficiency for the person trying to get hold of me, but I’m happy to live with that!

Well there you have it.  I had a great morning at church without my phone.  And although I only accidentally left it at home, I didn’t really miss it but actually enjoyed it not being near me.  Maybe you should forget your phone too and let me know how it went!

How to eat a Pan-fried Pork Bun

I thought I’d kick off this year with something light hearted.

We have been trying out dumpling restaurants around Sydney the last few weeks.  As we’ve have sampled various Asian cuisines, I have been fascinated by watching my 4 year old adapt his eating to not only avoid the scorching hot soup, but also to be able to eat a dumpling faster than most of the adults without burning his tongue or wearing the soup!

2012-12-28 12.55.10

The current dumpling of choice is a pan-fried pork bun (Siu Lung Bao).  These are a specialty of Shanghai (although I have had some pretty good ones in Beijing too!)  They are shaped like the normal Chinese pork buns (char siu bao) in that that they are steamed first.  But they are also pan fried to give the bottom of the buns a crispy fried finish.

Here is how to eat one (according to a 4 year old)

  1. Open up the top to let some of the steam out2012-12-28 13.07.52
    2012-12-28 13.07.23
  2. Suck the boiling soup out2012-12-28 13.08.50
  3. Eat the rest2012-12-28 13.01.21

 

Well there you have it. Enjoy your next pan-fried pork bun!